By = Fayanora
Chapter One: Always On My Mind
Note 1: Text in 'Italics and British quotes' is Parseltongue.
Note 2: Once more, I apologize for the bits and pieces of canon dialogue/narration here and there. But some canon scenes are just too good to change much. There's a lot of those in this one, but don't skim through or you'll miss things.
Note 3: I have different styles for the internal speech of each of the people in the Potter collective, but the note was causing formatting issues on other sites somehow, so if you need a reminder of what formats mean who, you can go back to a previous chapter for the note.
Note 4: All hail Our Lady Of Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling!
Note for BigCloset: Okay so I can't figure out how the outline tab works, not going to risk changing the title yet until I do. Anyway, this is The Many Faces Go To War, the sequel to "The Many Faces of Har--er, Adira Potter," which on BigCloset is currently titled "The Many Faces of Harry Potter" because like I said I can't figure out the outline tab.
Iliana was riding a motorcycle, dressed like a bad-ass biker chick with no helmet, which Sirius would hate, but her hair was flying in the breeze, so she didn't care. As she rode along, the motorcycle gently lifted off the ground and flew into the air, the cars and houses below becoming like toys as she flew through the sunshine. She felt amazing as she flew higher and higher into the sky, laughing with glee.
Luna was behind her on the bike, holding on tight, and she at least was wearing a helmet, but one that showed her face, which was alive with joy and laughter, and was older. Luna looked about 19 or 20, in fact. Iliana looked at herself in a mirror and saw she was around the same age, even though the sunglasses she wore were making it difficult to tell.
That wasn't right, though. The daylight was bright enough that she couldn't possibly be wearing sunglasses. But she didn't question it; she was having too much fun.
Suddenly, though, the day grew darker. The puffy white clouds became dark, flashing with lightning. It started to rain, a terribly cold rain that soaked them to the bone in less than a minute.
“We should land!” Iliana shouted.
“We can't!” Luna shouted back, gesturing down with her head.
Iliana looked down and saw they were flying over a turbulent sea.
“Shit! We should go back!”
“We can't! They'll catch us!”
“You know who!”
Iliana looked into one of her rear-view mirrors. Sure enough, a familiar hideous, snake-like human face was leering at her as he flew behind her on the back of a Norwegian Ridgeback dragon.
With a flash of green light, Luna's life left her eyes just before she slumped over and fell into the ocean. Iliana woke up screaming.
She kept screaming, but something wasn't right. It didn't sound like her own voice, it was pitched too deep to be hers. But still, she screamed. A black form on the floor beside her bed lifted its shaggy head and whined at her with concern. Someone came running, the door opening, and a familiar scarred face came in, looking around for the danger, his wand drawn.
The black dog jumped onto the bed and nuzzled her. She stopped screaming, and started to cry instead, her head in her arms. The black dog got closer and snuggled against her, his warm, fuzzy body comforting her.
“Are you okay, pup?” Remus asked. “What's the matter?”
She couldn't answer, she just kept crying. Padfoot, the dog, looked up at his old friend and whined. Somehow, Remus understood what he meant.
“Ah, another nightmare?” Remus asked. Padfoot nodded, then put his head back down on his fore-paws.
They'd been having a lot of nightmares lately, more than usual. They ranged from vaguely unsettling dreams about a body that didn't fit right, to nightmares like tonight's, or even worse. As horrifying as it had been to watch Luna die just now, at least it wasn't a graveyard dream. Some of those had been especially horrible. Cedric died in some of them, while others ended with an Avada Kedavra flying right at their own face. Luna had been in some of those, as well.
A month and a half. A month and a half of nightmares, of Adira and Iliana crying in frustration at being trapped in Alastair's body, of even Zoey going slightly mad and throwing things around the room in a fit. A month and a half of fear, and anger, and emotions not so easily categorized. And as if that wasn't bad enough, their scar was burning more often than not. It happened so much now that Remus and Sirius no longer freaked out about it, only looked quietly concerned and sympathetic.
They had explained that the scar likely burned because Voldemort, back to full power, was feeling strong emotions. Since they were an accidental horcrux, it would likely keep happening until the link was severed or they died, whichever came first.
So much frustration. No magic, no leaving the house, and even their non-magical plans were falling through. Fudge was keeping a tight grip on both The Daily Prophet and Witch Weekly, and they were writing articles about them and Dumbledore and Cedric every day all summer, trying to discredit the people responsible for releasing the truth about Voldemort to the masses.
Annoyingly, Fudge's plan was working, but according to things they'd overheard or been told, it was taking him a lot of work. It was, after all, very hard to suppress the truth when there were two eyewitnesses, one of whom was legally an adult. Even with Death Eaters on his side, Fudge was losing ground. It was a testament to his tenacity that he'd held on this long, honestly.
Oh yes, and how could they forget, even for a moment, that the horrible anti-werewolf legislation making it nearly impossible for werewolves to get jobs had passed, despite Andromeda Tonks and Sirius fighting it? Made all the more enraging because Dumbledore had done essentially nothing to help. He hadn't actively hindered, but his mysterious refusal to help had been just as bad. Despite that, though, Remus still thought highly of Dumbledore, for having let him be a student and a teacher at Hogwarts. Al had given up on convincing Remus of Dumbledore being a self-serving dingbat at that point. Sirius was on his side, though.
About the only good thing about the summer was that they were in Sirius's family's old house with the Weasleys and Hermione, cleaning it out slowly and in secret, because it was the new headquarters for Dumbledore's vigilante group, “The Order of the Phoenix,” and the place had been sitting to rot for who knew how many years. It wasn't a very cheerful place to live, but it was plenty big enough, and was a lot more secure than the flat had been, even with the Fidelius, since it had all kinds of protections on it like it being unplottable, as well as other things only dark wizards would know about.
This of course had meant they'd had their birthday with most of their friends. Javier wasn't there, and neither was Luna, for they hadn't been trusted with the secret, despite Iliana's and Al's pleading. And then, in the middle of the happiness of their birthday, Mrs. Weasley had tried taking on a boggart by herself, and it had imitated the dead bodies of everyone she loved, one at a time. Only the timely intervention of Moody, who had a new magical eye (purple, this time) had gotten her the comfort she needed from the worry and terror.
“Are you okay now, pup?” Remus asked. Iliana frowned slightly. Remus only used that nickname when he wasn't sure which of them was in control of the body.
“Want to talk about it?”
She hugged her legs. “Luna was in it. We were happy. Then he came, and she died.”
Remus sat down next to her. “Care for a hug, Iliana?”
Remus hugged her. Her eyes watered, but she didn't cry again.
After several minutes, she gently shrugged him off. “I won't be able to sleep again tonight. I'm going to do some work.”
The concern in Remus's face altered at this. She knew why; they'd been working on their project to invent weapons they could use against Voldemort every spare moment all summer. It had become an obsession, and they'd had some successes. Iliana had a very promising potion she was still working on. She couldn't brew potions in the house, as there was no potions lab and nobody to watch her as she worked, but she had done all the abstract work. She was going to run it past Professor Snape at some point, see what he thought of it.
An unopened letter from Draco Malfoy lay on the desk as she sat down. She tossed it aside. Hypatia had started ignoring Draco in favor of working on their project. She hadn't at first. In fact, she'd brought him in on the project somewhat. But she was getting frustrated with his lack of results and his constant questions of why she was asking him for help when she was so much better at it than he was. It was especially irritating because Hypatia knew Draco was a lot of help, when they were working in person. But it just wasn't the same, trading letters back and forth.
Iliana worked so long that she ignored the call to breakfast. Having done all she could on her most promising potion, she'd been working on something else instead. It wasn't directly related to Voldemort, and was way over her head, but sometimes it helped her to think about it anyway. After all, if she could improve the Wolfsbane Potion, or invent a replacement, that would be a huge win for werewolves and the people who loved them. But it was busywork; well past N.E.W.T. standard, and she knew she wasn't really understanding much of any of it. Even Hermione had balked at it the one time she'd read through the books and Iliana's notes.
With all the old dark magic books in the Black family library that Hypatia had insisted on saving from the bin, you'd think she'd have been in ritual magic heaven, but working on ritual magic when their magic was still not working was possibly the most frustrating thing yet. Sure, a lot could be done with maths, but a lot of it needed experimentation and practice. She'd given up when, in a fit of irritated rage, she'd hit the book with her fist so hard it broke the spine.
Luckily, though, there was only two weeks left until they got their magic back, assuming they hadn't lost it forever by mistake.
Their mind now occupied – again – by that worry, they gave up on their work and noticed a plate of food on a tray next to the desk. Suddenly ravenous, they pushed their things aside and began to chow down.
They were nearly done when there was a knock at the door.
“Who is it?”
“It's me, pup,” Sirius said.
Sirius came in, closing the door behind him. His expression was hard to read, and lately they'd come to realize how much they'd been relying on their empathic sense, which made it harder than usual now it was gone.
“How are you doing, pup?”
“Not great. We can't get over what happened in the graveyard. Cedric and I—no, Cedric and us? We and Cedric? Anyway, we nearly died! Voldemort was there, as were a bunch of other Death Eaters. I saw someone else die, turned into pulp by that mega-patronus. I've been having nightmares, I feel helpless without my magic, these projects aren't really helping me, and even after nearly two months it still feels weird being in Al's body all the time.”
Sirius came over to the desk and gave them a hug. “Which one of you just said that?”
“Iliana,” Iliana said. “But Adira was thinking a lot of it herself. She's more frustrated than I am by this whole thing.”
Sirius sighed gently. “I wish I knew how to help you, beyond making sure you're safe here.”
“I could use a distraction of some kind. Something other than this lot,” she said, gesturing to their projects.
“Well I can help you there, at least. You missed the announcement earlier at breakfast, but Dumbledore offered me the Defense Against the Dark Arts position.”
She looked up. “And what did you say?”
“It was a hard sell. He said the Ministry was angling to choose someone for the position if he couldn't fill it, one of their people. So I took the position, on the stipulation – like Moody did – that it would only be for a year. He accepted. I'm the new Defense teacher for this year.”
“I don't know how to feel about that. It'll be good seeing you every week, maybe even every day, but the position is cursed. I'm worried.”
He shrugged. “I'll take that risk. It helps Dumbledore, yes, but it also puts me in a position to protect you if something comes up.”
“What did the Ministry think of your appointment?”
“Dunno. I doubt they'll be happy about it, though.”
“Probably not. So what are you going to teach us?”
“What I'm good at; I'm gonna teach you dueling. I've been practicing since I got released from St. Mungo's back in your third year, when I can. A lot more this summer, between Chandra soundly whipping me and Voldemort being back.”
“Ah, that explains the sounds from the dueling room,” she said, smiling.
“Yeah. And now I have even more reason to practice.”
“If—when we get our magic back, I want to practice with you. There's no telling what shape our magic will be in when it returns.”
“Sure thing, pup. Let me know when it comes back and we'll do that.”
“Oh you'll know when it comes back, because the first thing we're going to do when it does is let Addy out.”
He smiled. “I'll keep a lookout for Addy, then.”
“No problem. Can I help distract you today?”
“I dunno. Can you? If you can, I'd welcome that.”
“Alright, then, how about I chase you around the dueling room in dog form?”
She thought about that. “Sure, why not?”
“Alright, let's go do that, then.”
At dinner later that night, everyone was eating and talking about Sirius's position and wondering who was going to be the new History teacher, since that horrible Umbridge woman had passed her anti-werewolf legislation and gotten him fired. Everyone was agreed that as long as it wasn't Binns again, it couldn't get any worse.
The doorbell rang, setting off the screaming portrait of Sirius's mother again. Sirius ran out to open the door for whoever it was, and to shut up the portrait. That portrait was another frustration; without their magic, Hypatia couldn't gain enough information about the thing from diagnostic spells to work out how to get rid of it. She had some ideas of what it might be, though, and possible solutions. So once they knew for sure, she could probably get rid of it fairly easily.
Soon, the source of the commotion came running into the kitchen where everyone was eating. It was a pink-haired Nymphadora Tonks, or just 'Tonks' if you valued your face being whole. She stopped, barely winded at all she was in such great shape, and spoke.
“Cedric Diggory got attacked by a dementor! He's okay, he managed to hold it back with patronus mist long enough to run and Apparate away, but he was in a Muggle area at the time, so he's being charged with using magic in front of Muggles. I don't think anyone saw anything, but the Obliviators are scouring the area anyway.”
“Voldemort!” Iliana shouted. “He must've sent the dementor!”
“Could be,” Tonks said. “He has reason to want Cedric to stop talking about him. But I dunno, Fudge is having a devil of a time keeping the truth from spreading, he's got just as much reason to want Cedric dead or worse.”
Iliana growled. “Damn those dementors! Once this whole war is over, we're going to eliminate them. Find some way to bind them in place and then do the mega-patronus again to kill them all, the horrible things.”
“Where's Cedric now?” Sirius asked.
“At the Ministry. He's been arrested. Arthur and Amos are trying to talk them out of it, but Fudge is seriously desperate, he's not going to let this one go without a fight.”
“Dammit. Has anyone told Dumbledore?”
“I sent him a Patronus message as soon as I heard,” Tonks said. “I was in the Ministry at the time. I asked Amos and Arthur if they needed help, they just told me to spread the word through the Order.”
There was another ring of the doorbell, setting off the portrait all over again. Sirius went back out again. While he was still struggling with the curtains around his mother's portrait, Snape came in.
“Severus, do you have more news of Cedric?” Remus asked.
Snape frowned. “Something happened to young Mr. Diggory?”
“Attacked by Dementors, got away with a weak patronus, then got arrested for doing magic in a Muggle area.”
“How unfortunate,” he said dryly. “But not what I'm here for. I would like to speak with Potter alone for a moment. Something has transpired, something I need to ask her about.”
Sirius came into the room then. “You're not taking them anywhere alone, Snape. Not if I have anything to say about it, and I do.”
Snape sneered at Sirius. “I do not have time for your games, Black. So if you wish to join us, you may. But what I have to say to Potter is not for any other student ears.”
Sirius looked surprised that Snape hadn't fought him, but nodded. The three of them went into the drawing room. Snape cast every privacy ward he knew on the room. Sirius looked concerned by all the security.
That done, Snape turned to Iliana. “Potter, something happened in that graveyard you haven't told anyone. I need to know what you are hiding.”
She frowned at him, and felt Al frowning as well. “We told Dumbledore everything that happened. Hypatia has a photographic memory, she's incapable of forgetting anything. Maybe you're the one forgetting something.”
Snape gritted his teeth but remained calm. “Fine. Then I would like you to review the events, in minute chronological detail since you insist you're capable of it. Something happened there, something I cannot recall hearing about, and I must know what it is.”
Iliana sighed. Hypatia took over control and began doing exactly as Snape asked, describing absolutely every detail in chronological order, but she didn't get far when he stopped her.
“Stop. Please repeat that last line, Miss Williams.”
“'Yes. And Bella, remember, they have the Philosopher's Stone inside their worthless body somehow. You've been itching to torture someone, I suggest you try it on Potter.'”
Snape didn't respond at first, he was too busy mulling over what she'd said. Then he groaned and pressed the bridge of his nose in irritation.
“What is it?”
The sallow man looked up again, asking his next question like he was dreading the answer she'd give. “What did he mean when he said you have the Philosopher's Stone in your body?”
“Zoey keeps the Philosopher's Stone inside our body, she pulls it in when she transforms away to someone else, can pull it back out when we become her again. We don't know how it works, but he used our blood once he realized he couldn't get the Philosopher's Stone out of Zoey, since it only comes out when she gives it up willingly.”
Snape was massaging the bridge of his nose again. “Damn you Dumbledore, for not telling me important things like this! Ugh. Thank you, Miss Williams. I now have a diagnosis. Not that it helps me figure out what to do about it.”
“Why is this relevant? Do we get to know that?” She paused. “Wait... did the ritual activate the Stone?”
He sighed. “Dumbledore told me I should tell you, since you are apparently privy to more information than I am, and he thinks you might be able to help, Miss Williams. So I can tell you that the dark lord is... not well.”
“Well we knew that already.”
“Not in the head! He is physically ill. I have not been able to diagnose his condition until now. He is weak, he coughs frequently, his bones break with the slightest pressure, and he is severely anemic. I have had him taking up to three blood replenishing potions daily, and I have been repairing his bones with my wand. The one time I tried giving him Skele-Gro... well, it did not work as it should have, and I am lucky to be alive right now because of it. Something went wrong during the resurrection ritual.”
Hypatia smiled. “So you think the Stone got activated when he took our blood? If so, you should check his blood for microscopic pieces of Philosopher's Stone.”
“Yes, that's what I was thinking too, once you told me about that damnable Stone being in your body. Now I just have to figure out what to do about it.”
“You could let it kill him. Or kill him prematurely. It would be the humane thing to do.”
“Excuse me,” Sirius said. “Someone want to clue me in on what's going on?”
Hypatia turned the body's head to Sirius. “Professor Snape and I suspect Voldemort using our blood to rebuild his body was a seriously bad idea for him. We suspect that pieces of Philosopher's Stone too small to see with the naked eye are in his blood, activated by the resurrection ritual. If we're right, those pieces are transmuting all the metals in his body into gold. The gold won't likely kill him, but anemia and bone loss probably will, in time. Unless the pieces are also making elixir of life. In which case, leaving him alone will likely make him turn into a writhing ball of utter agony that can never die unless killed by an outside force.”
Sirius's jaw dropped. “Wait, what? I mean... I get the blood thing, there's iron in blood, but bones? Why are his bones being affected?”
“The main ingredient keeping bones strong is calcium, which is a metal. Gold is a metal as well, but it's a soft and heavy metal, no good for making bones.”
Once he finally got it, Sirius started laughing harder than she'd heard from him all summer. He was laughing harder than he'd laughed at the mustache prank on the train home, and had fallen to the ground. Very soon, Iliana was joining him in the laughter, while Snape watched them with exasperation but yes, also a little amusement. The dark lord had himself in quite a pickle indeed.
When they stopped laughing, Snape said, “You two do realize, I hope, that you are not allowed to tell anyone else what you know about the dark lord's condition. Not even your friends Miss Granger and Mr. Weasley. I likely would have had to get your help even if you hadn't mastered occlumency, but the fact you have done so made the decision easier. I've been told you know occlumency too, Black?”
“Yeah. Standard Black family education, occlumency is.”
“I see. Well as I say, neither of you are to tell anyone about the dark lord's condition, do you understand? If it gets back to the dark lord and his followers that you know, it would destroy my usefulness as a spy, if not get me killed. And as much as I know you would love to see me die, Black, I can assure you many more will die without me to spy on the dark lord for Dumbledore.”
“Fine, Snivellus, the secret is safe with me.”
“I have filed the information away safely so only I can access it,” Hypatia said. “But I still need to know what you intend to do, and if you require any more help from me.”
“I have to tell the dark lord I know what his condition is, now. I will have to tell him what the options are; death and a new resurrection ritual, or an eternal lifetime of torment to make the Cruciatus Curse feel like a warm bath by comparison. If I do not, he will grow irritated with my inability to diagnose him, and kill me.
“As to help from you, Miss Williams, I doubt I'll need it. Curing a problem like this any other way would take too long for the dark lord's patience. He won't be happy to have to be killed again, but since he knows that he has loyal followers now who can and will help him again, he will do it.”
“How much pain is he in right now?”
“Enough that I have to limit his intake of pain relief potions, lest he overdose.”
Hypatia smiled. “It will be a struggle not telling anyone, but the secret is safe with us.”
“See that it is,” Snape said.
With that, he tore down the wards he'd cast and left the room, then the building. Sirius and Iliana returned to the kitchen.
“What was that all about?” Ron asked.
“Can't tell you. Sworn to secrecy. Only reason he told us at all is he needed our help with a problem he couldn't solve himself. That and we figured out what was going on from context.”
Ron frowned at them. They shrugged.
“Sorry, mate. I can't tell you. And a certain someone in here has made certain I couldn't tell you even if I wanted.”
Ron and Hermione looked at each other, then back at Iliana. He mouthed, 'Hypatia?' She nodded, and he relaxed into a stance of understanding and reluctant acceptance. She knew they would understand now.
They hadn't been done eating supper, so they went back to the table to finish.
“Sirius?” Iliana asked between bites.
“I don't think I can get through the rest of this summer without Luna here. Can we invite her for the summer?”
Sirius smiled. “Well okay, as long as you promise not to go doing anything risky with her, if you catch my drift.”
“Ugh. Like I'd do that in this version of the body. No, if we ever get around to that point, it'll be in my own version of the body, thank you very much.”
Ron looked confused. “What do two girls do with each other for that sort of thing, anyway?”
“RONALD WEASLEY!” Mrs. Weasley shouted. “That is a terribly rude thing to ask! Am I going to have to wash your mouth out with a scouring charm?”
Ron's face turned red. “No, Mum. I'm sorry.”
“Anyway,” Sirius said with a grin, “you can invite her tonight if you can catch her on the two-way mirror. Then if her father says yes, I'll Apparate over there to escort her here.”
The rest of dinner was spent talking more about Cedric's arrest and the potential fallout from that. What the Ministry would do about it, how Fudge might use it to his advantage, and so on. Iliana finished eating as fast as she could without being disgusting about it, intent on talking with Luna.
When Iliana was upstairs again, she grabbed the two-way mirror with Luna's name on it.
A few moments later, Luna appeared in the mirror. “Iliana?” she asked uncertainly, sounding hopeful.
“Yes, it's me.”
“Oh good. I didn't think the others would have any reason to talk to me, but I wasn't sure. How are you?”
“Not great. Frustrated all the time, as you already know. I've been angry a lot because of it as well. I've been trying to distract myself with projects to finish later, but honestly I've done all I can now. I can't brew potions here, and everything else needs magic.”
“How are the twins doing on their end?”
“Mostly focused on using the money for joke stuff, since that's what's going to sell best. They've run a few war ideas past us, but they're adamant that focusing on the joke part of the joke shop will pay off later, they have to save up for when they leave school.”
“Ah, well, that is a good point.”
“Al told them we'll give them more money if they need it. They haven't asked for more yet.”
“They're proud that way, Iliana.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“You look worried.”
“I am. Very much so. I had another nightmare last night. You were there. We were happy, until...”
“Was it the motorcycle one again?”
Iliana nodded, her eyes watering.
“Anyway, Luna, I called you because I need you here. Can you come over tomorrow? To stay the rest of the summer, I mean. Between being powerless and being cooped up in this dark and gross house, I don't think I can get through the rest of the month without you.”
“Well, I can ask Daddy.”
“Okay. When you do, tell him Sirius will come to escort you himself.”
“I'll tell him that. Hold on, I'll be back in a few minutes.”
She set the mirror down without shutting it off, and left the room. Iliana waited, looking at a spot on the wall of Luna's room through the mirror as she waited. A few minutes later, Luna appeared again, smiling.
“Daddy says he'll miss me very much, but if you need me, and I want to go, then he's happy to see me help you out.”
“Oh good. So I'll see you tomorrow?”
“Yes. Hmm... I don't really want to hang up already, but if I'm going to be leaving home early, I'll need to pack. I may keep my things in my trunk at school, but at home they tend to wander around the house. They like to travel. Which is part of why I didn't always mind so much when they'd go wandering the school. But, hmm...”
“Hey, don't worry about it. Knowing you'll be here tomorrow more than makes up for it. You go pack.”
Luna smiled again. “See you tomorrow, Iliana.”
Luna signed 'I love you,' and Iliana signed it back to her. Then Luna shut the mirror off, and Iliana sighed, not knowing what to do with herself now.
Dumbledore was sitting in his office, thinking about the latest news from Severus Snape concerning Voldemort's deteriorating health. He was both amused and annoyed by the news. Amused for obvious reasons, annoyed because it meant the reinforced connection between Voldemort and the Potters would be breaking as soon as he died again to re-do the ritual, whenever that would be. They would still be bound by the unintentional horcrux in the Potters' body, though, he reminded himself.
It suddenly occurred to Dumbledore how elegant and symbolic it was that Voldemort, who split his soul many times and became less emotionally stable with each split, was facing an opponent who had extra souls inside their body, and could quite possibly one day use alchemy and rituals to give themselves their own bodies. Dumbledore had no idea how to go about that, it was well out of his area of expertise as it would probably require some rituals that were technically dark, but still, he knew enough to believe it possible. If they survived long enough to try it, that is.
He sighed; he hadn't been having a good summer. The Ministry was being ridiculous thanks to Fudge, leaving Dumbledore and his Order of the Phoenix to fight Voldemort alone. And worse than that, Fudge was trying to deflect attention away from Dumbledore's stance on Voldemort by bringing up his mistake of putting the Potter collective with the Dursleys. Dumbledore had decided, at last, to retire from the ICW. A woman he knew and trusted was now leading that esteemed group. He had also stepped down as Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot. It had actually been something of a blessing in disguise; with fewer responsibilities, he could focus more on the fight against Voldemort, and he was getting slightly more sleep now, too.
Still, Dumbledore refused to give up his position as Headmaster of Hogwarts. He loved Hogwarts too much to leave it willingly, and the Ministry was trying to mess around with it, so he had to defend the school from two enemies, now.
The one bit of good news was that the Dursleys had been prosecuted at last, without the Potters needing to come in at all. They were not going to enjoy being locked in a prison run by wizards, but at least it was one of the smaller, usually temporary jails and not Azkaban. Petunia, at least, was glad for that. Dudley Dursley had been a bit trickier to deal with; in the end, the Ministry had faked his parents' death (in a car crash, fittingly enough), changed his memory to match, and put him up with his Aunt Marge. The boy would be traumatized, but that couldn't be helped. Dumbledore just hoped he could convince the Ministry to move the Dursleys to a prison in France or elsewhere for their own protection, before Voldemort could harm them. Especially as he wasn't sure if the Potter collective would want to rescue them or not, and he wasn't sure which choice they made would be worse.
An owl tapped on his window, snapping him out of his thoughts. He got up and collected the letter from it, letting it inside to wait for a response before examining the letter. He did not recognize the handwriting. He cast some spells on it to check for magic, but it was ordinary parchment and ink, sealed with mundane wax.
Dear Albus P. W. B. Dumbledore,
You do not know me, I'm sure, though you may recognize my name. It is Mahala Kalisha Kadu. I am the author of several world-famous books about wandless magic, as well as some moderately popular books about ritual magic, and books about the history of metamorphmagi.
I write today because I have been hearing some extraordinary things out of Britain. Some of it did not concern or interest me, such as your Voldemort, but others... other things caught my attention. Specifically, tales about the famous Harry Potter having multiple souls in his – or I suppose I should say her, with her recent name and gender change – body. Fascinating tales such as multiple patronuses used in the Triwizard Tournament, and bodily transformations that baffled the best European Healers.
All this was enough on its own to make me consider coming to Britain despite magical Britain's third-world status and recent history of violence. But then I heard the one thing that settled the matter for me, namely that the Potters managed to survive your Lord Voldemort shortly after his return from un-death, with an apparently ritual-fueled enormous Patronus of incredible power.
No doubt you are wondering how I heard about that particular story. Well, I admit I am not as fussy about dark magic as many people are, though I never saw the appeal of going fully dark, either. So I have contacts in many places both high and low. One of Voldemort's Death Eaters made the idiotic mistake of going to a Knockturn Alley bar and talking, in shock, about the giant glowing naked woman who killed one of his comrades with an exploding arrow. Luckily for him, I do not think his master found out about his slip-up, and the only person he told was one of my contacts, a man well known for his discretion.
Naturally, being an expert in many areas of magic, I recognized the description as a ritual-fueled Patronus. One of the cruder ways to kill a dementor – and yes, dementors can be killed, no matter what Europeans think – but the only one that is also effective against mortal opponents.
I understand you will be very protective of the Potters this summer, so I will not come to Britain yet. I have some things to take care of in Indonesia first anyway, and I would like to stop by my home in Nairobi as well. I will likely be in transit from Indonesia to Nairobi by the time this letter reaches you. I predict I will be there another two weeks before taking a Portkey to Britain from there. I believe this should be enough time to ease your concern about Potter enough to at least speak with me about the possibility of meeting them. I have a hypothesis I would like to test. Namely, I think they are in fact a form of Metamorphmagus; I believe their plural nature made it manifest oddly.
Other reasons to meet them: I could train them in wandless magic, especially its use in combat. I've become adept enough at this that I don't need a wand, though I do carry one just in case. I also have knowledge of ritual magic that I doubt anyone you would normally employ would have, and I know how to use it safely. I believe they would be better off with someone to apprentice with in regard to that sort of thing, unless you have forbidden them to continue and you believe they actually complied. Otherwise, despite your reputation for not liking ritual magic, would it not be better for them to learn from someone who knows what they are doing, than to experiment on their own? Ritual magic can go disastrously wrong, it is notoriously finicky.
Well, send me an owl telling me your decision about whether or not to talk with me. I suggest you do; I also have some ideas about Voldemort that might interest you, especially about how he managed to survive a backfiring Killing Curse. Whether you know the answer to that or not, I might be able to help on that front as well. I doubt I have any more experience with that particular ritual than you do, but still, wouldn't hurt to try, right?
I will await your owl.
Mahala Kalisha Kadu
Dumbledore put the letter down thoughtfully. Yes, he had heard of her before. Some of the books about wandless magic that Chandra was using were written by her. She was an African witch of considerable and formidable talent, often called 'the Dumbledore of Africa.' From what he'd heard about her, he thought the comparison was downplaying her abilities. If the rumors were true, she could probably defeat him in battle. It would be a battle to make his duel with Grindelwald look tame by comparison, but still, he doubted he could beat her. Having her help would be invaluable, even if she had no interest in taking on Voldemort directly.
Decided, he got out parchment and ink and began to pen a response, inviting her to come to Hogwarts to talk with him. When he was done with that, and sent it, he sat down to write a letter to the Potters, updating them on the Dursley situation, a letter he intended to send with Dobby. After all, aside from the fact they needed to know anyway, they might have some ideas for what to do for the Dursleys. If they were so inclined.
Percy Weasley looked around at his new apartment and sighed. He'd finally moved everything in, it was done; he was committed to this, now. It filled him with a little dread, but also excitement. Dread because he was breaking rules and pretending to be at odds with his family, but excitement because he was working against Voldemort for the Order of the Phoenix. Okay, that gave him some dread, too, even though his role was merely, thus far, spying on the Ministry for the Order. Specifically, Fudge and Umbridge.
It was odd how he'd gotten here. There'd once been a time when he'd resented his treatment by the rest of his family that this could have been a genuine split, even if the whole thing was mad. Not long ago, he'd been working in the Department of International Magical Cooperation under Alfonse Alder. Now he was, thanks to an awkward situation and an even more awkward imaginary situation, personal undersecretary to Minister Fudge. He was glad to be away from Alder, to be honest; the man was kind of creepy, especially around women. After witnessing some incidents and hearing some rumors and trading letters with Iliana Potter over the summer, he'd been very tempted to report what he was seeing to Rita Skeeter, but the woman had apparently dropped off the face of the Earth, and he didn't trust the Ministry's new shills that had replaced her.
Then, somehow, Alder had gotten wind of his activity. Percy had feared his career was over, but the man made him an offer. He'd been planning to refuse, but needing guidance he talked with Dumbledore about it, and Dumbledore had told him it was an excellent opportunity. After a meeting that had made Percy's head spin, he'd found himself in the Order of the Phoenix, and then taking Alder up on his offer, all because Voldemort was a more serious threat than Alder, whose harm was entirely psychological thus far. Percy had managed to get Dumbledore to promise to do something about Alder as well, thankfully, or he would have refused.
Dumbledore's plan was simple: stage a very loud, very public fight in the Ministry with his father over Dumbledore's “lies,” in which Percy defended Fudge and the Ministry and rules, which fit with his personality as most knew it. After all, very few people knew how much Iliana and Adira had helped Percy's home life by intervening with the twins, Ron, and Ginny on his behalf.
It had worked, of course. Now everyone thought there was animosity between Percy and his family. And sadly, there was, in a way... not trusting their ability to pretend to be angry with him, his brothers and sisters hadn't been told the split was fake. He just hoped they would believe him later when the truth came out, and forgive him for making them think he'd turned on them.
Right now, he wasn't feeling like it was much of a trade, Alder in exchange for Fudge and Umbridge. Umbridge was a horrible human being, he couldn't think of a single redeeming quality to her. Even her loyalty was dark and twisted. He hated being around her. Only years of practice at controlling his expressions and concentrating on doing what it took to dig his way out of his impoverished origins was keeping him from quitting in disgust. Well, that and the thought that if he pulled this off well enough, nobody in the Ministry would ever be the wiser, and he could maintain a high position indefinitely.
His unpacking done, it was time to go to work again. He needed the distraction. Grabbing the things he needed for that, he was soon Apparating to work, making his way to his tiny office.
Right now, Percy was looking through the documents for the most recent agenda. As he did, he read something he knew Dumbledore would want to know. There wasn't much time, but luckily that had been taken care of; Dumbledore had given him an invisible ring with which he could tap out a message to Dumbledore, or whoever it was Dumbledore had given the other ring to. The point was, he could contact the Order with it. Glancing up and making it look like he was just resting his eyes, Percy checked for anyone watching. He had already checked the room for surveillance spells before setting to work. Seeing nobody, he turned the ring to make it visible, then tapped out a message on it with his wand.
There. Now maybe Dumbledore would be able to put a stop to this ridiculous new Educational Decree #22, which would, if passed, give the Ministry the right to assign someone to replace a Hogwarts teacher that had been let go due to illegal activity, the language of which meant they had an excuse to replace Lupin as History of Magic teacher, on the grounds that it was illegal now for a werewolf to work as a teacher. Hopefully Dumbledore could get a replacement before that happened, but given how long it was taking, it didn't seem likely. Binns had been such a horrible teacher that Dumbledore was having to cast the net out to the continent to look for a replacement History of Magic teacher. It had been weeks, and nobody had answered yet. Of course, Percy knew why that was. The Delacours had been there to hear that Voldemort had returned, as had Krum and his family, and so word would have spread across the continent by now. Nobody would want to come to Britain until Voldemort was gone for good.
The door opened; Percy hastily made the ring invisible again and pretended to look up from his work with mere curiosity.
In a sickly-sweet and ridiculously girlish voice, the old toad-faced toady in her horrible pink cardigan came into the room.
“Mister Weasley, are you ready? The Minister will be here shortly.”
“Everything is ready, Madam Umbridge,” he said, standing up in a great imitation of his usual excited enthusiasm. “I was just reviewing everything one last time to make sure I hadn't missed any important details.”
She smiled at him. “Excellent. It's good to see such enthusiasm and attention to detail in one so young. You'll go far, young Mr. Weasley, mark my words. Just stick with me and I shall make sure that you go far in the decades to come. Now, quickly, before Cornelius—I mean, before the Minister arrives.”
Giggling at her fake little slip of the tongue, she bustled out of the room, Percy hot on her heels, fully immersed in his role for the day.
Endnotes: Once more, I can safely say that I've been waiting literal YEARS to reveal the whole “Philosopher's Stone transmuting Voldy's blood and bones to gold” thing. And YAY! Finally it's here! :D
Secondly, I've decided that while having electronic copies of books 5 – 7 would be nice, canon compliance is going to be going out the window at this point anyway, so I'm not bothered. (I have e-copies of those books now, I just don't think I'm going to use them much.)
Also, yes, Umbridge is a Hufflepuff. I hate it how the villains are almost always Slytherins. As horrible a person as she is, Umbridge showed herself to be fiercely loyal to Fudge for some reason. And who says political climbers have to be Slytherin? After all, Percy is canonically a Griffindor, and he was a social and political climber. So yeah, she's a Hufflepuff here. Besides, a Hufflepuff villain is a fascinating idea to me.
Lastly yes, I did decide to run with Iliana's distaste for Alfonse Alder and go the Harvey Weinstein route with him. He'll get his comeuppance.
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