Headmaster Albus Dumbledore was standing at the window of his ruined office, looking out over the school grounds bathed in the rays of the rising morning sun.
Sirius, you blasted fool!
He had plans for him, to reinstall him as the Head of House Black and use his seat for leverage at the Wizengamot for one. There were several laws he had been trying far too long to bring through, but not much longer now, Harry was going to be seventeen in just a year. Everything should go smoothly from then on.
Secondly, he wanted to rub the living proof of his fellow honourable members’ incompetence into their faces. Though he probably still could, they had Pettigrew now after all. On that thought...
He stepped over to his desk, pulled a fresh piece of parchment, an inkwell and a quill out of the drawer and scribbled a few quick instructions to Alastor. Sealing and charming it for the old Auror’s eyes only he gave the note to Fawkes, whispering his request. A moment later the bird was gone in a flash of flame. They needed to be the first to interrogate him.
He returned to his window.
Maybe it was for the best after all. His influence on the boy was dubious at best and detrimental at worst, yet the boy needed some sort of parent figure to turn to. Remus would have to do.
Poor child! To witness his beloved godfather falling through the Veil had almost broken him, making the revelation of the prophecy inevitable.
Dumledore was not pleased. It was too early, far too early! It would not have come to that, if the plan had worked. It had been set up expertly, the opening of the boy’s mind, giving Tom an idea and opportunity to use, the ruse with the guard duty, and the final move. Never in his dreams had he expected Harry to actually manage and prevent the transfer.
No matter, other opportunities would arise. Not now though and not anytime soon. The circumstances forbade any action in that quarter, until the boy was absolutely ready. He regarded the wreckage around him thoughtfully. Considering that display it should not take too long. He had enough on his hands at the moment anyway, regaining his power and influence at both Hogwarts and the Ministry, regrouping the Order and striking while Tom was still weak, building out the spy-network...
Dumbledore’s brows furrowed angrily.
Why? Why on earth had Severus informed Sirius of the ongoing operation, why did he contact the Headquarters at all?
Couldn’t help himself but rub it in I would think. The boy needs to be put into his place and soon. The information he is bringing in isn’t worth much consideration.
Tom had never stopped mistrusting Severus after his return to his side, obviously. If not for the Mark he would have restricted him to brewing potions only. He should remove him from this school and he would, in a way convincing enough to appease Tom of course, but still. He had been indulgent enough, it was time for a firm hand.
The first thing Harry Potter did after leaving Dumbledore’s office was to check on his friends in the hospital wing. The grief and revelations weighing heavily on his mind had been pushed into dark corners where they could wait, until he had ensured himself of their wellbeing. All of them had been treated and were now sleeping soundly. Hermione had been the only one with a truly dangerous injury, because the cutting curse Dolohov had used did not yield to the usual treatment. After a thorough looking and talking to he had been dosed with a sleeping draught and slept through the day undisturbed.
He woke up around dinnertime. The events of the last night crashed down on him with vengeance, suffocating him. He needed to get out of there, someplace quiet and solitary, where no one would think to look for him. He changed into clean clothes quickly and almost ran out of the door before Madam Pomfrey could get hold of him again.
Walking fast through the empty halls and unable to push away the demands of his loudly complaining stomach, he decided to make a trip to the kitchens first. The thought of facing his clueless and carefree fellows in the Great Hall right now was unbearable.
The house-elves, though busy, were as welcoming as always and loaded him with all sorts of food and drink before he even finished his request. Wonderful creatures, he thought to himself, why did Hermione insist on setting them free again?
Outside the painting with the bowl of fruit he put his goods aside and pulled out the Marauder’s Map. Studying it carefully he decided on the chamber which had contained Fluffy his first year. The third floor corridor was generally used for storage and was for that reason student and teacher free, even Filch did not went there, unless on business. Harry took his things, put the invisibility cloak on and ventured out.
That night found Severus Snape, the resident Master of Potions, in his sitting room in front of a crackling fire, a tumbler of Firewhiskey in hand and a half empty bottle on the side table.
He knew he shouldn’t indulge right now. The Dark Lord would be calling him any moment and he would need all his wits sharp to survive the ordeal. Oh, what a mess! Almost the entire Inner Circle had been exposed and arrested last night. It was a good thing of course, it really was, though considering whose skin was going to take the brunt of the Dark Lord’s anger he just couldn’t muster enough joy to be pleased about it. He checked his pockets for his heavy duty pain reliever and other medical potions.
On the brighter side, the flea-bitten mutt was no more. Unexpectedly, the death of his most loathed rival did not bring him the sort of deep satisfaction he always imagined it would. Probably because the circumstances were not painful enough for his tastes, it had been simply too fast. The bastard did not deserve it fast! Especially in the face of what Severus had to endure on regular basis.
It might also be the fact that even dead Sirius Black still held a higher place in Dumbledore’s estimation than he. Now though he could almost have hope, since the only true competition consisted of the Golden Boy and the Wolf, both of whom he could very much outlive in the near future.
Speaking of the boy, he was going to be trouble.
Blame me for everything no doubt, and the Headmaster of course will do nothing to dissuade him.
Severus had no illusions as to why. Dumbledore had a full cadre of convenient scapegoats at hand, all he wanted was to be appreciated for the work he did.
A sharp, throbbing pain shot through his arm and the tumbler fell to the floor crashing to pieces. The Dark Lord was angry indeed. He downed a sobering potion, repaired the tumbler with a flick of his wand, put it on the table and left.
It was a typical late June night, warm and clear, illuminated by twinkling stars and an almost full moon. A light breeze and the chirping of crickets outside were the only things disturbing the stillness of the cathedral-like chamber, flowing in through an open window.
On its sill sat a young man just out of boyhood hugging his knees firmly to his chest, the remains of a hastily consumed meal littered the floor below him. He would not be able to sit like that for hours on end if not for the Cushioning Charm he had the presence of mind to cast beforehand. His emerald eyes, red and swollen, were looking out into the night unseeing.
Harry had cried until there were no tears left to shed it seemed, reflecting the hollow emptiness in his chest quite well. The pain consuming him did not lessen though, even if he was able to think clearly now, more or less, and thinking was exactly what he should have done this time yesterday. Never again, he silently swore, would he put one step before the other without considering it thoroughly.
Too late for Sirius of course, bet Snape is getting himself off on that somewhere right now.
NO! No hasty conclusions anymore! Think, consider the facts, Snape at least was always telling you to do exactly that!
The only one beside Hermione no less. That was saying something, though he couldn’t see what at the moment, but he would.
You’ll learn or get someone else killed, there aren’t really any other options.
He took a deep breath and emptied his mind of all thoughts again. It was far easier than he had ever believed, not even his scar bothered him anymore.
Well, congratulations Harry, you’ve gotten it at last! Yet again, too late for Sirius.
All it took was to imagine his cupboard late at night shortly after he had turned four and realised for the first time that he was truly alone in this world. It was not that hard really, it was just what he was right now.
Dumbledore’s revelations were supposed to answer any questions he had. Instead, they had opened a flood of new ones he hadn’t even realised were buried deep inside, bringing an alarming number of inconsistencies to the forefront of his mind, which he had every intention to examine closely. One by one though, or go insane otherwise. He could see the merits of a Pensieve quite clearly now. However, not having one of his own, he would have to do with Occlumency alone.
Where to start? At the beginning, he sneered uncharacteristically remembering Dumbledore’s words. And where was that? Ah, yes, my parents!
He had consciously decided that from this moment on his parents did not matter. He did not know them and could not trust what he had been told about them any longer, the best example being the whole mess with Snape’s memories. He did look like them undeniably and he may have inherited some of their personality, yes, but that was all. He was not raised by them, had no memories of them beyond what he had seen with Dementors close, and most importantly, they were not here to complain.
He did not blame them for that of course, but he couldn’t let some imagined or implied expectations have any influence on his actions in the future. Hell, he didn’t even know how they made their living! And wasn’t that quite strange and suspicious? How it had never occurred to him before was quite unsettling. This definitely smelled of careful manoeuvring on Dumbledore’s side, so the question was why? What reasons did the Headmaster have to conceal such a trivial thing from the orphan in his care? He had a feeling the answer would come to him by itself when he had investigated his family history.
Harry uncurled from his previous position on the windowsill and pulled out his wand.
“Accio my parchment, inkwell and quill!”
He seriously hoped his dorm-mates were already asleep or it would be quite a strange sight indeed.
Less than ten minutes later the summoned items hovered before him. He plucked them out of the air and placed them carefully on the makeshift desktop he had transfigured from a spare napkin, lighting the torches on the nearby walls with a word of command.
He needed to organise himself he knew, or all his Occlumency would not prevent him from running around in circles. This was just too big to keep in his mind only, since he was no Master Occlumens like Dumbledore or Snape just yet. On the other hand, he needed to protect himself from unwanted prying, so concealing and security charms were in order. Luckily, he had learned a fair share of them during Umbridge’s regime. He was aware though that those would not be able to stop truly powerful wizards. He needed to operate in absolute secrecy.
A cold shiver ran down his spine at the conscious realisation of the magnitude of his actions. Albus Dumbledore himself was no longer on his side. Worse, he might never have been on his side in the first place.
Harry had every right to be afraid, he was alone, had a long list of powerful enemies, a fate hanging over his head and now no allies at all beyond the small circle of friends, whose loyalties may clash with his own in the near future. The hopelessness of his position was overwhelming him, robbing him of his resolve.
He took a deep breath and emptied his mind. There, better!
There were only four options available to him so far, suicide, flight, compliance and struggle. He took up his quill knowing without doubt which one he was going to take.
‘Constant vigilance’ from now on or everything is lost. He put the quill down, took out his wand and fired every revealing spell and privacy ward he knew. Satisfied he went back to work.
His family. The Evans’s and the Potters. Who could help him with this?
Aunt Petunia most certainly, if he asked just right, would tell him about his muggle family, even if only to rant. The Potters were supposed to be an old pureblood line, meaning every other pureblood would know about their history, assets, political and social standing. Well, he could ask Ron he guessed, but couldn’t help the feeling of unease uncurling in his stomach at the thought. If Ron had known anything, why didn’t he ever mention it before, knowing full well that Harry was always eager to hear about them? The answer came to mind immediately and unsurprisingly, jealousy, Ron’s greatest weakness and one this time Harry just couldn’t forgive.
Another deep breath, then another, trembling one this time, treacherous tears burning in his eyes, threatening to spill. I’m NOT going to cry, not for Ron, never for Ron!
He pushed his emotions away with brutal force. He couldn’t afford a breakdown right now. He had work to do, a lot of work, knowing instinctively that this was the only time he was going to be allowed to do it unobserved in the near future. His breathing evened out, his face turned into a blank mask he knew, though he had no mirror to see it.
Who then? Malfoy? He could not help laughing, envisioning the scene in his mind, Malfoy’s face in particular. Suddenly his laughter died almost choking him.
Of course! Neville!
It was so simple and easy and would have never occurred to him before. The key to his family, as well as the understanding of this whole society and its workings, was in the hands of this shy, seemingly inept boy. The answers had been before his very nose all along. Merlin’s balls! Had he always been this stupid?
No, he thought soberly, only distracted and manipulated, a bit overwhelmed as well. Neville it was then. He made a note on his to-do list.
Next point, the Dursleys.
Had he really been just left on their doorstep with a letter? Was some sort of provision made for him, some sort of monthly stipend or something? He had been visiting the primary school, did it mean they were receiving governmental childcare money at least?
He considered everything he knew about them and all they have ever told him about his residence with them and realised that there had been nothing. Everything he had been made to do was to earn his keep.
Furthermore it was exactly what Dumbledore had intended in forcing Harry on them. Had provision been made, Harry doubted he would have been treated like that. The Dursleys considered themselves decent people after all, especially aunt Petunia, what would the neighbours think otherwise. Mrs. Figg had been placed in the neighbourhood to keep an eye on things, reporting everything to him.
Why Dumbledore had done that was clear as day, especially with the prophecy in mind. He needed a meek and grateful little saviour, a perfect pawn. Harry had entered the wizarding word as a blank page to be written upon by the next best man or wizard in this case.
Well, not any longer!
Harry tried to be angry, but found he couldn’t. It had been strategically a brilliant move, he would give the bastard that. One thing was still puzzling him though, what had happened to his parents wills? He made another note on his list.
Next, my first introduction to this world.
From his talks with Hermione, Dean and others Harry knew that all muggleborn and magical orphans living in the muggle world were contacted personally by a member of staff and a Ministry representative at home or an appointed location arranged beforehand. It was done so because of the Statute of Secrecy and the obligatory registration of all muggles with the knowledge of the wizarding world. The parents were informed of their rights and duties, as well as educational options for their children. The children received introductory pamphlets on all and any topics concerning the wizarding world, history, society, education, St. Mungo’s, Gringotts, the Ministry, law, magical locations, transportation, and so on, AND a list of recommended readings on the most important topics. After that an appointed witch or wizard accompanied the family on their first trip through the Diagon Alley.
Hagrid had been sent to contact Harry and bring him into Diagon Alley to do his shopping, and answer any questions he may have had.
One did not have to be a Seer to predict the outcome. Harry had left the Alley not much more informed than before entering it, except for that he was famous and Slytherins were bad. Dumbledore didn’t want him to know ANYTHING!
Nothing new, is it?
He wrote down on his list to ask Hermione to borrow all her pamphlets and books, which she undoubtedly had with her here, for the summer. He would have enough time to go through them then. He was not going to allow the Dursleys to lock up his trunk and force him to work nonstop ever again, that much was for sure.
Harry put the quill down and rubbed his eyes tiredly. So much for summer holidays, but there was nothing for it. Knowledge was a weapon and this particular one had been used against him most effectively in the past.
Very well then, what next? Ah, yes, the Sorting, and Harry Potter at his most naive!
Harry truly didn’t know if he should laugh or cry this very moment. Laugh at his childish perceptions, the absolute stupidity of his beliefs and the easiness with which Dumbledore had managed to plant both in his mind, or should he cry for the straightforward, light-hearted, unassuming boy, who had fallen through the Veil together with his godfather, never to return.
Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, the Gryffindor Prince, the Golden Boy, Dumbledore’s Man, was dead!
The young man sitting on that windowsill was Harry Potter, the Chosen One, the Saviour, the snake in a lion’s hide, his own man. There was no reason denying it any longer, the Hat had been right all along, he would have done well in Slytherin.
Scout out the other houses, especially Slytherin, for possible allies, stood written on his parchment. Point was that Dumbledore for all his display of magnanimity did not deem the Slytherins worthy of saving, and not only Slytherins, but people with Death Eater background in general. He was stuck upon the unyielding belief that people were defined by their choices.
Which Harry absolutely agreed with, but knew firsthand that sometimes the situation could be so hopeless that there were no choices, unless other options were offered by someone else. That was something Dumbledore in all his age and wisdom had never understood.
His greatest weakness, my best chance!
To create his own side in this war, to provide help to people with no strings attached and ensure a future most truly for everyone, that was a goal worth fighting for indeed!
Harry blinked sheepishly.
Merlin, I hope I’ll survive this!
Yet he liked the idea regardless. If he was destined to be the Saviour, then he should do it properly, instead of making some lukewarm promises he never intended to keep. That was exactly what Dumbledore and Voldemort had been doing all this time, shaping the world after their liking with no regard for the wellbeing of those they deemed unworthy to reside in it.
If Dumbledore is the Lord of Light and Voldemort the Lord of Darkness, then I shall be the Lord of Dusk and Dawn, neither Light nor Dark.
He took that thought and put it into the deepest abysses of his mind suddenly afraid. If this ever came out...
They would burn me on stakes, he could not help chuckling darkly.
He cast the Tempus Charm. Four twenty-one in the morning, he needed to return to the hospital wing soon. He sighed heavily rubbing his burning eyes.
What was there left to ponder anyway? His years at Hogwarts consisted of nothing more than unserious efforts to gain some knowledge and an endless string of adventures, which in retrospect had been just tests set up by Dumbledore to gain an insight into his abilities or misguided attempts to unlock the ‘power the Dark Lord knows not’, or something.
Well, as hard as it was to admit, the unserious efforts definitely needed to change. And as for Dumbledore...
Harry looked out into the night thoughtfully.
...the same as Voldemort he supposed. There was nothing he could do at the moment, but stay low and watch out biding his time.
An amusing picture entered his mind making him smile grimly.The Dark Lord and the Light Lord were gathering forces, resources and knowledge right now, preparing themselves for battle. And the Lord of Dusk and Dawn should do the same.