Inspired by Kathryn518's Author's Notes from 'I'm Still Here' and 'What's a Little Death between friends'.

Halloween, 1981.

"Alastor, the Lestranges have attacked Caerfyrddin," Albus commanded, holding a golden shield against the destructive spells being thrown in his direction. "I will hold the line here. Vance and Doge are on their way. Go!"

The Master Auror acknowledged the order with a gruff sound, vanishing with a crack too silent for a hasty apparation through the wards of Hogsmeade.

Albus held the shimmering shield in place with his off hand and slashed his wand of power in a diagonal arc to deflect the next volley of spells. Immediately following the action, the wand was pointed towards the heavens as three phoenix patronuses were cast, pushing back the dementors that Alastor had previously kept at bay from attacking the villagers who had either escaped or were hunkered down in their homes.

As Albus continued to defend against the near ineffectual spells that the death eaters continued to throw at him, his mind continued to ponder the question that had not escaped since he first heard the news.

None of his sources, not even the recently acquired Severus, had provided any hints of the attacks that were taking place across the length and breadth of Wizarding Britain. He had furiously wracked his brain for clues, hints or any mention of a puzzle whose answer would have prepared him for the loss of precious blood being split by the defenders and attackers, or the civilians.

Ignoring the screeching of the dementors who were doing their very best to destroy the constructs of blue light that threatened to keep their quarry from them, Albus pointed his wand to his back and cast.

Three wizards who had appeared behind the Headmaster of Hogwarts with the intention of killing him could not react as dozens of spears rushed at them. The now dead bodies flew back but did not fall as they were supported by the very weapons that ended their brief lives.

Albus moved his wand with a speed one of his age should not possess and conjured a large marble slab to absorb the familiar green curses flying towards him.

The last four months were quiet; relatively, at least, when compared to the horrors of the previous years. Ever since the day the mysterious Azazel had fought Voldemort to a standstill and then forced the Dark Lord to retreat, the Death Eaters and their insane master had been strangely silent. The entire blood purist movement – Albus snorted at the word – had been taking quiet hits across the country as Aurors led by Alastor, James, Sirius, Frank, and Amelia were ransacking safe houses, capturing low-level enforcers and several suppliers who were the economic backbone of the Death Eater organization.

Cutting down three death eaters who had towards him with a series of cutting curses and a fire whip, Albus dodged the next volley and sent a wide area blasting curse to scatter the remaining death eaters.

"Kill the old man or I'll be feasting on your flesh." Fenrir Greyback shouted at the top of his lungs as he desperately tried to counter the older wizard.

Albus smiled in contempt. For all their power and streaks of viciousness, these… wizards were nothing more than children at the Arts. As he shielded a particularly nasty evisceration curse, he thought about the anonymous tips which led the aurors to the safe houses. Albus considerable attempts at locating the source of these tips had ended in abject failure. None of his contacts, not even Mundungus Fletcher who knew the seediest of the lot in Knockturn alley, had found even a hint of the characters or characters who were providing them with invaluable help.

And yet, the same source had remained mysteriously silent for the attacks that were currently taking place. Shielding against six Killing curses, Albus concluded that the informant must have either been deceiving them into letting their guard down or the informer must not have been a member of Voldemort's inner circle.

Albus frowned as Severus was a member of the circle and he too had not been able to provide more than a fifteen-minute advance warning. His frown turned into a scowl at the thought of Voldemort initiating such a large scale attack in haste without prior planning, or his former student might have hidden the plan from his followers until the last second to prevent the Order from getting a whiff of his plans.

No matter the theories, the Dark Lord had orchestrated multiple attacks against some of the most highly defended and secure locations in Britain. The Ministry of Magic, Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade, Prewitt Mansion and Caerfyrddin, the rumored birthplace of Merlin.

The Auror contingents and the Hit Wizards along with the volunteer forces had responded to the cries for help as quickly as they possibly could, although their preparations were heavily hampered by a lack of communication between the forces. Albus had tried to ensure the three groups maintained a steady line of communication, but DMLE Director Barty Crouch had dismissed the idea and refused to work with 'wet behind the ear vigilantes who were out to sate their craze for battle.' Albus had sent instructions to the Order who had quickly scrambled to reinforce the defenders.

However, it seemed that the Dark Lord had committed the entirety of his forces, forces that Albus surmised were kept in reserve for truly opportune moments. The Ministry forces and the Order had been stretched to their limits in repelling the attacks, especially since Bagnold and Barty had recalled a majority of their forces to help protect the headquarters of the magical government of Britain, and it was not helping matters when four of the Order's best fighters were tied up in various affairs.

He had sent most of the Order to defend Diagon Alley, while some of the Hit Wizards had been dispatched to protect Caerfyrddin. The Prewitts were, Albus knew, strong enough to hold their own and their wards were quite powerful, not to mention Aberforth had been sent to reinforce their position.

Ignoring the growing sense of disquiet in him, Albus waved his wand as another three patronuses shot out of the tip, soaring towards the hordes of dementors that had taken down his previous charms and doing their best to kiss him. The abominations screeched in pain as the silvery phoenixes drove them away but not as far as they usually would have, and those… abominations were quick to return, despite the best attempt of his patronuses to drive them away.

"Halloween," Albus muttered in exasperation. The anchors of the realm of death upon the mortal plane are stronger than ever, empowering the dementors. He took a deep breath and decided on a fresh course of action. "Very well. If you refuse to be cowed, you shall be erased." The tip of the Elder Wand glowed a bright red at the words leaving his lips.

Ignis Infernus.

Albus put every inch of his incredible focus into the incantation and pointed his wand towards the cloaked abominations. The wand tip for glowed bright enough to blind everyone in the village of Hogsmeade as the patronuses faded and flames the color of blood spewed forth to form a protective barrier around the Headmaster of Hogwarts.

Ancient instincts cause the dementors to begin retreating from the bright flames with screeches of pain that forming a protective barrier of sorts, as their screeches caused the awestruck death eaters to shudder in fear and pain.

With a smirk, Albus flicked his wand in a counter-clockwise spiral. Instantly, the hellfire condensed into a hundred solid spikes of blood red flames, all of them aimed at the dementors with one goal in mind.

"I believe it is time for you to leave this world." He murmured to himself and flicked his wand, causing the entire army of spikes to rush forward at speeds exceeding the Comet Two-Sixty.

Unfortunately for them, the dementors could not outrun the magic and they were impaled. Their following screeches made Albus thank the stars for remembering to use a sound muffling charm on himself. Upon impaling their targets, the spikes exploded leaving behind tattered cloaks and silence and a display of fireworks in the dark of night.

Dumbledore let out a deep sigh and removed the muffling charm on his ears. Turning to the remaining death eaters, he asked, "Would you like to join them on the next great adventure?"

"Tear him to pieces!" Greyback growled in fury. Behind him stood a pack of over a hundred werewolves fully changed into their bestial forms and howling alongside their now transformed Alpha.

"A morphed werewolf in absence of the full moon?" Dumbledore wondered. It seemed like Voldemort had pulled in all the stops for tonight, but why? Fighting the Dark Lord over the years had given him enough information to know the full breadth of his forces, and considering the situation right now, it looked like Voldemort had placed every single one of his cards on the table. But why tonight of all nights?

The obvious reason would be that it was Halloween and the powers of the Dark were much more potent with the Chaos dimension favoring them exponentially more than any other night, and it seemed like Voldemort had decided t0 put his entire power behind a single overnight strike in order to achieve a decisive victory. However, Albus had a feeling that there was more to it but was unable to place a finger on what it w-

A very familiar feeling, one he had not felt since the war with Grindelwald, ripped across his mind, causing his eyes to widen at the realization of what had just occurred.

No- It can't be- James and Lily-

The Fidelius around the Potter Cottage in Godric's Hollow had just fallen. That meant-

Albus whipped his wand to form a bubble shield around himself and cast a Patronus. "Go to Hagrid. Tell him to leave for Godric's Hollow right now!"

The Phoenix nodded in response and flew away to deliver its message.

Time to end this. Whipping his wand around, Albus Dumbledore called on the arcane powers of Runecasting, manifesting bright orange runes of protection in a large circle around the werewolves, startling them. The runes glowed brighter as threads of energy drew paths between the symbols of power and finally coalesced into a large dome of protection.

Greyback and several of the werewolves had lunged forward only to be trapped within the fully formed shield that they were now lashing against to no avail.

The Elder Wand had begun singing for the destruction to follow as the headmaster waved the legendary artifact in increasingly complex patterns. And then, for the first time in decades, Albus Dumbledore actually uttered the name of a spell.

"Hastam Mortem Infernus."

The moment the incantation was complete, spears of bright blue energy had appeared at the center of each runic circle part of the dome which had trapped the werewolves in a powerful magical prison. Burning with heatless blue flames, the tips of the spears were focused inwards, the vile prisoners staring at their doom in rage and horror.

A look of weariness and anger flashed across the old man's face as he flicked his wand towards the ground, bringing the wrath of hell onto the abominations.

The spears began launching volleys of arrows of blue flames, impaling the werewolves and burning their flesh to cinders as the shield of protection trapped its inhabitants in a sea of flames.

Albus spun his wand in a clockwise spiral with a diagonal arc and apparated away instantly, ignoring the explosion of the destabilized runic shields and spears that tore the werewolves into chunks of blood and meat.

Godric's Hollow was a village in the West Country of England. It was a small community primarily occupied by witches and wizards, centered around a church surrounded by many cottages, a post office, a pub and a couple of shops.

The Potter Cottage was a quaint little residence in the western part of Godric's Hollow. A two-storeyed house with a small garden and a fireplace with a chimney, it was bought by Fleamont Potter in 1978 and gifted to his son, James Potter, as a wedding present and the newlyweds had quickly made the cottage their home. After the death of his parents, Fleamont and Euphemia Potter, and the destruction of Potter Manor, James had strengthened the wards of Potter Cottage to war-footing and, a week ago, had the entire building placed under a Fidelius by Lily with Sirius as the secret keeper.

Now, on the night of Halloween, Albus Dumbledore stood in front of the partially demolished sight of the cottage. Several holes, both large and small, dotted the walls lining the foyer and living room; the roof and walls of the nursery on the top floor appeared to have exploded outwards, planks of wood and concrete visible on the jagged edges of the roof and the exploded wall displayed signs of magical erosion.

His throat tightened in pain at the sight, wondering why Fate had to be so cruel to a family whose lives were so brief. Stamping down the grief that threatened to overwhelm him, he refocused on the situation on hand. There was time to wallow later.

Albus shifted his gaze towards the gate leading to the now ruined cottage where Hagrid stood, with a small red bundle in his arms.

Wait! The baby!? Was Harry Potter alive?

His eyes widened in shock, and his gait faltered. Could it be-?

"Professor Dumbledore," Hagrid all but bellowed, walking up to him with the last of the Potters in his arms. "James and Lily a-are gg-gone, sir." Tears were streaming from the half-giant's eyes and drenching his brown beard.

Albus had already tuned out Hagrid's ramblings, his mind racing with theories, plans and moves to make in the near future. He held his palm in a stop gesture to halt the stuttering, grief-ridden words of the half-giant before him and apparated with a near soundless crack.

Appearing in the middle of the living room, the first sensation that Albus was the air around him saturated with powerful magic. An instant later, he recognized the familiar metamorphic signature that identified transfiguration magic and the foul signature of the Dark Arts. He immediately scowled at the stench but the expression was immediately wiped away by the sight before his eyes.

Near the fireplace, and nailed to the wall with the broken head of a transfigured bear through his chest was James Potter. Everything below the elbow of his left arm was missing with the bone sticking out of the sinew and muscle as blood the color of black slowly dripped to the floor. The left arm was undergoing a slower necrosis that appeared to be from a slow-acting withering curse with the decayed fingernails on the floor. The left leg was skewered with a partially transfigured chair, the femur sticking out of the thigh and the right leg appeared to have been forcibly shoved through itself, bone and muscle twisted like a macabre art form. The jeans and shirt were shredded along with the skin and muscle underneath with several ribs sticking out of the chest.

Albus had looked down, fingers tightening around his wand and unable to gaze at the state of his former student any longer. He clenched his wand hard enough that he feared he might break the artifact, but his anger drowned everything else.

Before he could something foolish, he slammed down his occlumentic emotional dampeners. He could not afford to lose control now. Not when James was gone along with Li-

Blue eyes widened beneath glasses as the realization hit him and he quickly glanced around the thoroughly destroyed room. Finding the other body was not in the room, he apparated upstairs in front of the broken down door which led to the nursery situated after the bright pink wall - a result of one of Harry's moments of accidental magic - and the full force of the magic in the room overwhelmed his senses like a tidal wave. Slamming down his occlumentic shields and dampeners at full power, he entered the nursery.

Albus passed a quick glance over the entire room, cataloging the scene. An entire wall and part of the roof were no longer present and a bookcase that he had seen once before was embedded into the walls in several pieces. Burnt and broken toys lay on the floor with a small wooden dragon emitting a broken roar – He remembered that gift very well. James and Sirius had put their brains to work and created the dragon out of transfigured wood and enchanted it to perform all sorts of amusing tricks, including the ability to warn either James or Lily if their baby was hurt in its presence. He distinctly remembered Lily telling him about Harry never letting the toy out of his sight, a quirk that had both amused and irked the young mother.

Giving himself a firm mental shake, his gaze moved to the right and fixated themselves on the familiar tattered pieces of robes lying over the charred floor. Frowning at the thought, he tried to identify when he might have seen such cloth and a second later, his mind supplied the answer.

Albus felt his heart skip a beat, the Elder Wand humming with amusement at his thoughts. How… Voldemort was destroyed!? How is that possible? Was Lily still-

He turned to the left and his eyes immediately fell on the body of Lily Potter lying in front of the crib. Ignoring any thoughts about possible traps and curses, he moved forward two steps, crouched over the body, turned her over to take a better look at the red-haired woman. Finding green eyes bereft of life, he placed his wand over the body and muttered a few diagnostic spells.

The results caused his chin to his chest. The diagnostics indicated she died by the Killing Curse, and even Albus knew that there was nothing, nothing in the world that could save her.

Wiping a stray tear from the corner of his eye, Albus stood up and moved back to the door. Facing the room, his eyes glowed a bright blue with a shade of silver lining his iris as he activated Magesight.

While there were dozens of documents on the ability and several grimoires and journals written by mages of the past, all of which Albus had studied in his quest to understand the ability, none of them had fully revealed the true extent of the powers available.

Many learned and wise magus had put forth theories that the documents contained but a sliver of the true nature of the ability. It was common knowledge that all arcane spells and terrifying abilities were rarely documented by those who once possessed or created them and even then the magus would rarely write in a plain, easily understood manner. All such writings were either sealed to ensure only those of a particular blood or magical line could understand them, written in such terms so as to provide the barest of glimpses or made of highly complex puzzles that forced the seeker to prove themselves worthy of the forbidden knowledge they sought.

Since the grimoires and journals had contained but a bare handful of information on the Sight he possessed, Albus had studied every hypotheses and scrap of conjecture that had been put forth. At first, they made him pause in thought, then irritate him and now made him chuckle in amusement. The learned and wise were right, but they so very were wrong at the same time.

It was true that the documents contained but a sliver, but it was not because the mages who possessed Magesight did not wish to share their secrets or because they wished to pass on the knowledge to those they considered worthy. The reason was rather simple: they could not put it into words. The ability, being so innate to their very being and yet completely alien to all they considered human that they could not find words in any language to truly express all it was. Thus, anyone who deigned to try and document their experience for future generations could write but a mere handful of pages.

Possessed by a handful of mages in all of history, Magesight was an extrasensory perception that allowed the user to perceive the flow and nature of magic within a certain radius. Unlike the rumors surrounding the ability, it did not display magic in the form of colors neither was it limited to the eyes alone. The ability conflated all five senses to form a high-level quasi-organic system that allowed the user to perceive magic upon the dimension it existed and its relation to the world as perceived by magus who does not possess the ability.

Magesight allowed a mage to perceive the myriad forms of magic through all five senses in a manner that would allow them to maintain their sanity of thought, and yet, the cacophony of sensations received threatened to overwhelm them. The user can touch, see, smell, hear and taste magic as it exists within their sphere of perception, although they perceive the knowledge in a manner wholly alien to their human senses. Thus, mages tend to describe the magic they perceive in words that the laymen would understand, words that barely described the true depth of perception provided by Magesight.

Drawing upon one of the powers conferred by the ability, Albus muttered, "Priori Incantatem." Unlike the usual form of the spell where it merely allowed the caster to reveal the previous spells cast by a wand, his ability allowed to watch the entire sequence of events that had occurred in an area. The drawbacks were that the people or events had to be magical and the area must be viewed within a few hours, sometimes minutes before the impressions of the events eroded.

This time, it seemed that he had arrived on time as the spell began to reveal the sequence of events that had occurred in the room. His eyes glowed even brighter contrasting the darkening shade of his silver irises.

He saw Voldemort cast the Killing curse towards Lily, the curse striking her and her soul leaving her body. Voldemort turned to face the crib and cast the Killing curse towards what he knew was Harry.

Then, the most astonishing thing happened. The Killing curse stopped in mid-air and disappeared with an unusual twist in space before what appeared to be a third Killing curse was cast from the crib and struck Voldemort causing him to explode in the same way that a wall struck by a blasting curse would.

Albus's eyes widened despite his emotional dampeners. Not noticing the lone drop of blood flowing from his nose, he immediately apparated outside the gate of the cottage. Ignoring the startled Hagrid, and with the most extreme of care – Lily would come back from the dead and kill him if he ever harmed her child – he caressed the infant's black hair and moved it aside. Deactivating his Magesight, he focused on the still-developing face of the orphaned child. There, on the right side of the infant's forehead, was a small non-bloodied scar in the shape of a rune. It was Sowilo, the rune of victory and the sun.

The child… the baby… had not only somehow stopped the unstoppable Killing curse but also… projected a Killing curse back at Voldemort? It was…

Albus felt the ground slip away beneath his feet. Tonight, the prophecy had come to pass, a child had been rendered an orphan and the Dark Lord had been vanquished.

Tonight, a magic thought lost had been brought back into the mortal world.

"Hagrid," Albus muttered, at last, ignoring Hagrid's ramblings about blood, nose, and infirmaries. "take baby Harry to Hogwarts. There are some errands I need to run before the night is done. This boy in your hand is the one who vanquished the Dark Lord. He lived, despite the death of his parents and the betrayal his family suffered at the hands of his godfather."

"He survived the Dark Lord's Killing curse, Hagrid. He is the…. The Boy-Who-Lived."

Several hours later…

Albus Dumbledore stood against the window of his little office, looking down at the great grounds that encompassed all around Hogwarts castle.

The sun was just peeking over the distant mountains on the horizon, bathing the entire land in the pale orange light. The Black lake shimmered in the early morning light as the giant squid floated on the surface of the lake with its tentacles moving languidly behind it. Several of the merfolk had taken to racing around the squid with their steeds while others were playing some form of the game by rushing around the tentacles at high speed.

The window of the headmaster's office was one of the many mysteries of Hogwarts that Albus had yet to solve. He had once measured the window to its exact length and realized that it was no more than a square of two feet and yet looking at it would make the window look like an arched rectangle of nearly four feet. Albus found this to be utterly fascinating as the window looked and felt to be as large as four feet but measuring it provided a length of no more than two feet.

The other mystery was the view offered. The window faced east, towards the forbidden forest that surrounded Hogwarts on all sides and the distant mountains above which the sun rose every day. But, the window also provided the view of the Black Lake located in the opposite direction and parts of the forbidden forest that should not have been visible from his position.

The headmaster of the oldest magical school in all of Europe had always the magical view available from his office as it never failed to bring a smile to his face at the wonders achievable through magic. Today, it left him with an extreme sense of melancholy.

The Hogwarts staff, bar few, had left the school grounds and were celebrating the death of the Dark Lord with their family, friends, even strangers alongside the entirety of Wizarding Britain. The pubs were filled to the brim with copious amounts of alcohol being consumed by giddy witches and wizards. Fireworks were being launched in all major magical settlements and Diagon Alley looked like Christmas and Halloween had arrived together.

Albus stifled a sigh. Once he had provided Hagrid with a portkey to the school's infirmary and sent a Patronus message to Poppy, he had immediately sent another Patronus message to Barty asking him to meet Albus in the Director's office in the Ministry as quickly as possible. Upon arriving at the office and finding the Director waiting for him in a sour mood, he quickly relayed the details of the Dark Lord's demise and the death of the Potters, save their child.

At this point, Albus had paused for a moment, considering his next words carefully. He could leave the infant's name out of the story, make up a rather believable explanation and feed it to the Director and the masses, but the people had labored under the darkness for so long that they would need a light to help them cope with the sudden news that the Dark had retreated. He knew the people would accept any explanation given by him if it meant Voldemort was truly gone. However, there would be all kinds of inquisitions into the matter sooner or later and the death eaters who would escape persecution for their crimes would sooner or later search for their Dark Lord who was dead. So, he had decided on a course of action that he knew he might come to regret and told Barty the truth of the entire matter.

Disappointment flooded Albus upon seeing Barty's eager acceptance of the story. After the news was quickly percolated by an overly excited and relieved Barty through the entire DMLE and the Ministry departments, he informed the Director of Sirius's betrayal and had pointed them to safe houses where the man might be lurking.

After passing the news to Bagnold and a few other high ranking officials, Albus had apparated to Hogwarts and made his way to the infirmary. The following meeting with Poppy led him to where he was now overlooking the grounds of the school. Resisting the urge to scowl at his thoughts, he turned to face the room.

The structure of the Headmaster's office had not changed since the school was built over a thousand years ago; a large circular room with steps behind the headmaster's desk leading to the private quarters. The walls of the room were covered with various shelves filled with books, tomes, scrolls and various kinds of writing implements and artifacts. A few tables littered around the borders of the room with dozens of artifacts dotting their surface.

On the desk was a golden perch reserved for Fawkes. The Phoenix sang a melancholic note while Albus took his chair behind the desk to face the three visitors seated on the chairs opposite him. The peculiarity of the present situation was that the three were his teachers at one point or another during his long and fruitful life.

The chair on the left was occupied by the legendary alchemist, Nicholas Flamel. To his right sat his wife Perenelle Flamel, one of the world's foremost authorities on rituals, esoteric and arcane magical systems and effects. On the extreme right sat Samuel Thüringen, Head of the Battle-Transfiguration Guild.

Normally, a meeting of such illustrious people would have been a rather public event. However, the current discussion was taking place in complete secrecy and there was only a single matter that occupied the attention of all who sat in the office.

Harry James Potter.

A few hours ago, Albus had done what he had thought what would be the best idea in such circumstances. Upon his arrival to the infirmary, Poppy had hounded him with questions that he did not possess answers to. She had outright said that there was nothing she could do at the moment and St. Mungo's was too overcrowded with injured and half-dead witches and wizards to provide any help.

Albus moved to the bed where Harry lay and observed the baby for a few seconds. Finding no visual signs of any damage, he activated his Magesight again, fully aware he was straining his body beyond its limits. What was revealed to him was so shocking that he, at first, refused to believe his senses? He had spent untold minutes casting every single diagnostic spell he knew before giving up and deactivating his Magesight. He was not understanding the results he received and the stress due to using his ability was taxing his aged body. Knowing there was only one course of action he could follow, he went to the floo and called his mentors, The Flamels.

His reasons for contacting the Flamels was two-fold: One, Perenelle was possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of things long forgotten by the world. If there was anyone who could explain what was happening to young Harry, she could. Two, Nicholas had access to the legendary vitality magic that everyone knew as the Philosopher's Stone. His old alchemy teacher might be able to help stabilize or even heal the boy if he was in dire need and his mentor was willing. But nothing that had occurred after had been part of his expectations.

"Professors," Albus pleaded with his mentors, "please, please try to see what lies before your eyes. This is a child we are talking about, one who has just lost his parents at the hands of a killer and whose godfather has betrayed him. He is an orphan. Not a monster who wishes to destroy the world we love. You cannot possibly think there is any reason to-"

"Albus!" Perenelle snapped, "Is that not too hypocritical of you?"

Albus frowned in confusion. "I do not understand what you speak of, Lady Flamel. I have done nothing-"

"Nothing!?" Perenelle said with mock surprise. "You once went to war, Albus, going against everything you vowed to defend. You killed hundreds and destroyed thousands of lives in order to defeat your former friend, Gellert Grindelwald. You do not get to speak about not killing one to save the many."

Albus scowled in anger. "I did what I had to do!" He snapped. "It was WAR. I chose to sacrifice those lives, yes. I chose to ignore the collateral damage my actions caused, yes. But I never ever chose to do what you are willing to do right now. I have never chosen to kill an innocent child in cold blood."

Nicholas' lips twitched and Samuel grimaced as Perenelle laughed a high, cruel laugh. Her laughter subsiding, she looked at Albus with a smirk that sent a slight shiver down his spine. "I never knew you were such an overweening person, Albus. Need I remind you of the prophecy you place blind faith in?" Her smirk grew crueler. "The same prophecy you trot out as your justification for never choosing to face that upstart pawn who styles himself as a wannabe Lord?"

Albus mentally frowned. His reasons for choosing to not face Voldemort on the battlefield were highly personal and that he did not wish to reveal to anyone. The prophecy had merely provided him with a convenient excuse, no matter the dire nature of its contents.

"You do not get to sit there and preach about right and wrong. Not when the upstart learned of the prophecy through your incompetence." Perenelle said, anger marring her words before her expression became strangely thoughtful. "Although, if we consider the circumstances in which the prophecy was revealed and you letting the information escape, one could deduce that it was all a ploy to manipulate your Dark Lord into a position that would allow you to defeat him."

Samuel flinched at the blatant accusation as he knew better than most that Albus had always hated the fact that everyone considered him to be some sort of master manipulator who controlled events and people around him with the ruthlessness of a Machiavellian mind.

Albus bristled in rage. "Lady Flamel, it would behoove you to not make accusations without evidence and thought. I did not put a death sentence on two families as part of a plan to kill Voldemort."

Perenelle dismissed the answer with a wave of her hand. "It does not matter if you staged the event or not. What matters is that you have never set foot on the battlefield to help your fellow countrymen."

"Yes, but the prophecy clearly states that Harry is the one who will-" Albus tried to explain but was interrupted by Perenelle.

"He fulfills the conditions of our prophecy too!"

Albus froze for a second at the admission. He had never heard of a second prophecy, especially one that pertained to young Harry Potter. "I am afraid you have me at a disadvantage, Lady Flamel."

Perenelle's eyes blaze with anger. "That boy is the last of the Peverell bloodline, Albus. His accursed, vile, traitor of an ancestor nearly destroyed the magical world because we did not wish to follow him. Two generations of magus were killed in the attempts to put down that mad abomination. TWO GENERATIONS, ALBUS!" She screamed the words. "That was the price we had to pay for the Statute of Secrecy. Thousands of lives destroyed to ensure the entire magical world was protected." Her fingers clenched. "It took centuries to recover from the massacre perpetrated by his ancestor. Now, you, Albus Dumbledore, wish to let this child live, the very child marked by the prophecy signifying the end of the world."

Albus looked at her, completely shocked out of his wits. "The… end of the world?"

Perenelle would have snapped again if Nicholas had not placed a calming hand on his shoulder. Once his wife had relaxed slightly, he said, "We do understand your point, Albus. Irrespective of Perenelle's opinion on the matter, I certainly know why you are unable to… condone our actions." He leaned forward to look Albus straight in the eye. "What we are about to reveal is classified at the highest levels of secrecy. If you ever reveal even a scrap of what you now learn, you will be declared traitor and forced into the Dead Man's Chair." His tone was utterly solemn. "Should the need arise, I shall carry out the sentence myself."

"Professors," Albus asked, irritation in his tone, "I find myself quite curious as to why you would even consider that I would betray the oaths I have sworn on my life and magic. What have I done to earn such suspicions? Is this what I deserve for all my years of service?"

"Do not take their words to heart, Brian," Samuel spoke up, completely ignoring the seething look from Perenelle. "There has always been bad blood between the Flamels and the Peverell family. First, I would like to state that none of us have any doubts regarding your devotion to the Guilds. However, understand that the Council and the Guilds have spent centuries doing our best to ensure the prophecy that marked the end of our world does not come to fruition."

Albus frowned. "All I hear are empty words and grave news but none of you have yet to explain how killing a child could help you accomplish your… goals."

Making sure that neither of the Flamels showed the slightest reluctance, he proceeded. "As you well know, the Guilds were founded over two thousand years ago by some of the greatest magus of their age. The Guilds were charged with the responsibility of protecting the magical world against threats that would destroy everything we are."

"Yes," said Albus. "This is basic history, taught to all apprentices of the guilds. It does not explain why-"

"Patience, Brian." Samuel chided his former apprentice. "Let me finish. In the seventh century, the entire magical world was attacked. Warriors of Norwegian descent-"

"I believe the correct term is Berserker." Perenelle interrupted primly.

Albus raised an eyebrow. "Berserker?"

"Human warriors of extremely large stature, possessing bodies that surpassed the greatest of mundane warriors and resistant to all but the most powerful of all magic. Wielding broadswords with the ability to nullify magic, they fought with unmatched ferocity. They were hired by the Vikings and other mundane empires to destroy the magical world."

Samuel glanced at Perenelle as she finished her explanation and turned to watch the ceiling with an interest usually reserved for rituals. Picking up from where she left off, he said, "Our world fought long and hard against them, sacrificing so many magus that we thought it would be our end. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your view, even the mundanes sustained heavy losses. Soon, the Guilds and the Leaders of our communities realized that we could not afford to continue the war any longer and all of them came together and devised a solution to end it."

Dumbledore raised an eyebrow. "The Statute of Secrecy?" Despite the Statute being common knowledge, the origins of the statute were lost in arcane documents or hidden away in the most secure vaults available, unknown to all but a select few.

Samuel shook his head. "Not quite." His lips twisted into a frown. "The magical world and the mundane world signed a treaty in blood. According to the contract, we agreed to never raise arms against each other through any means. Should any individual on either side break the pact, we would work together to quickly neutralize them."

"An admirable goal." Albus pointed out.

"One that your precious child's ancestor tore to pieces," Perenelle spoke in rage.

Albus raised an eyebrow. It looked like the subject of the Peverells was an extremely sore topic for the Lady Flamel and anybody willing to raise the subject seemed to be under significant risk if the glances Samuel passed were any indication. Nicholas sat in his chair with perfect poise, his face betraying none of his emotions.

"The terms of the treaty were heavily discussed between the Council, the Lords of the Great Houses of Europe, the Guilds, and Leaders in the International magical community," Samuel explained. "The Flamels were part of the original discussions… as was Alduin Peverell, the most infamous mage in the history of our world, whose mere mention sends the Lady Flamel into a blind rage." He deftly ignored the glare directed his way.

"Alduin… Peverell." Dumbledore repeated to himself. Decades earlier, when he had completed his apprenticeship under Nicholas, the man had revealed that his true age was beyond fifteen hundred years, a fact which held true for his wife as well. Even so, the news that his mentors were part of a different world had never ceased to amaze him.

"Alduin the betrayer," Perenelle said, rage lacing her words. "The monster not only betrayed us but destroyed my entire family. That disgusting-"

Nicholas gripped his wife's hand firmly to halt her rant. Giving her a slight nod, he turned to see a wide-eyed Albus. "Please excuse her, Albus."

"No apologies necessary, Professor." Albus returned. "However, I admit, as fascinating as this new piece of history is, I still do not see a reason to commit infanticide."

Still gripping his wife's hand, Nicholas cleared his throat. "Let me finish the story, Albus. Once the conditions of the treaty were agreed upon and signed by every single party including Alduin, the man betrayed everything he stood for and declared war on the berserkers and the mundane empires. And then the man went ahead and committed the most horrible atrocities." A hint of anger could be discerned in his tone.

"What exactly did he do?" asked Albus warily."

Nicholas's gold eyes flashed for a brief second. "He obliterated entire mundane cities and towns, executed innocents by the hundreds and slaughtered anyone who stood in his path. For better or worse, the Peverell Family have always possessed a connection to the Root that any magus would have killed for." He was frustrated by his admission as he continued to stare into bright blue eyes hidden behind half-moon spectacles. "Do you know the lore of the Elder wand, Albus?"

"Wand of Elder, never prosper." Albus chanted. The Elder Wand in his grip appeared to hum in agreement.

"Indeed. What you might not have known, dear Albus is that there has only ever been one Master of the Hallows or, as the children's tale says, the Master of Death."


Nicholas nodded gravely. "He was neither the Master of Death as the legends state nor he was immortal." He clarified, "But he was closer to that state than anyone I have ever known."

Albus did not know which part of that answer he should comment on.

"Alduin was a Peverell born with the extremely precocious ability to copy his opponent's magic and use it against them. There was no spell he could use, no thaumaturgical system he could not infiltrate, no form of magic that was alien to him. They called him a Counterfeiter, a Heretic. We believe it was some form of obscure magecraft, but none of our research into the field has yielded the results he displayed effortlessly."

"Copy the opponent's magic?" Albus asked in surprise. "But would that not-"

"Neutralize the opponent's greatest weapon, yes. "Nicholas interrupted, "It was the reason why everyone feared him."

Albus did not have even an inkling of what was now being revealed to him. A magecraft that allowed the practitioner to use any magic… He shuddered to think of the implications when used alongside the legendary Hallows.

Nicholas continued his explanation. "To be honest, the only reason why the Guilds were able to end him was that his son, Marcus, betrayed his father to us. In return for us leaving his family alone, Marcus agreed to cease the Peverell line, giving birth to the Ancient House of Potter. The entire family also agreed to take up an oath to never be a part of any official Council that held sovereignty over a community."

Albus raised an eyebrow. He had often wondered why Charlus Potter, a born politician, had never entered the chambers of the Wizengamot despite the numerous offers he received.

"I will be absolutely candid, Brian," Samuel spoke up. "The reason we are relying on such measures is that of a prophecy delivered to the Guilds by Alistair Porpington in the latter half of 1127. For obvious reasons, the true wording is classified, even to the Alexandrian Archives. What I can reveal to you is that the prophecy predicts the return of the Peverell name and the destruction that would follow in its wake."

Albus squinted his eyes. "That… seems far too vague. How do you know that the boy is the Peverell who will fulfil the prophecy? Samuel, have you entertained the idea that, perhaps, it might be a Peverell who will help you to mitigate the devastation that follows?"

"Repeatedly…" Samuel replied in resignation. "Lady Flamel, however, disagrees with our theories."

"Madame Flamel, if I might be so bold, your wish to end the life of an infant is far too personal," Albus observed. "Besides, the Guilds are sworn not to interfere in the workings of the magical world without sufficient cause. As Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, I cannot, in full conscience, allow you to proceed."

Nicholas raised his hand in a pause gesture. "Your reaction is natural, Albus. However, that is only because you do not know the contents of the prophecy and the events surrounding it."

Albus stood up. "All your arguments and conjecture are very intriguing but do not hold any ground with me. From my position, I see you making the same mistake that cost Voldemort everything. He, in his vanity and delusions of grandeur, tried to stand against the Will of Fate and look where that led to. Are you sure that in your attempts to halt this prophecy you are simply not driving the events that would eventually lead to its fulfilment?"

"Are you sure that, in your well-meaning intention to save this child, you are you not setting the prophecy in action?" Perenelle asked causing Albus falter.

He turned towards Samuel. "Does Serena know about this? I am highly confident that she would not give in to such paranoia. I am sure that every single person part of this decision was a part of the Council."

"Enough!" Perenelle snapped. "You might be the Chief Warlock and the present Supreme Mugwump, Albus Dumbledore, but even you know that what the Council wants, it gets. Did you even notice that the… boy is carrying the upstart's Horcrux in him?"

Albus's face darkened. "It is impossible to create a human Horcrux. Even the abominable Nightmare-child can not-"

Perenelle interrupted him. "Do not play coy with me, Headmaster. You know the identification spells. Cast it on that abomination you call a child. The last of the Peverell bloodline is a Horcrux of one of the most dangerous dark lords in history and you refuse to see it. Need I remind you of what happened to the Ewer of De Noir?"

Albus paled considerably. The Ewer of De Noir was an extremely valuable and powerful artifact that was corrupted when the Dark Lord, Emeric the Evil, had used it as a Horcrux. According to folklore, the Ewer had been enchanted to produce a vitality elixir, which could cure even the most lethal of poisons. After a decade of housing a Horcrux, the corrupted elixir made basilisk venom pale in comparison.

"The child houses a Horcrux, Albus. Even if he survives long, do you still believe that the child would, as you so grandly proclaimed, help us mitigate the devastation?"

For once, Albus Dumbledore had nothing, absolutely nothing to say in rebuttal.

"That child...needs to die. It is necessary… for the Greater Good." Nicholas added.

A shadow flickered across Dumbledore's face. For a long, long time, he had believed that 'For the Greater Good' was, possibly, the worst phrase ever invented since it allowed anyone, no matter how sinister their intentions, to justify their actions in the name of a false justice. It was the cause he had originally believed and the reason that led to the demise of his sister and his brother Aberforth's hatred of him.

It was also the reason why his father, despite acting out of self-defense, had been carted off to Azkaban for the rest of his natural life.

"No," Albus spoke at last. "I refuse to believe that two wrongs make a right. I can understand your concerns since Harry Potter is an impossibility. I accept that I did not live through the wars that tore the continent and the world apart and the betrayal that eventually led to the Statute of Secrecy. I certainly do not possess any knowledge of the portents you seem to recognize as the markers of destruction."

"Professors, I live in the present, and all I see a child whose parents died to ensure his survival. Harry Potter is an orphan whose parents are now dead and whose godfather has betrayed him. Let me be clear, he has lost everything. Prophecy or not, I shall not allow you to sacrifice that child for a phrase that should be burnt out of any language."

"That child will die, irrespective of what you feel, Albus," Perenelle snarled, "I will not have another monster destroy everything we love because your morals stood in our way." She stood ramrod straight with magic sparking dangerously between her fingers.

Albus drew his wand and took a stance, blue eyes glowing with magic.

"Albus. Lady Flamel." Samuel intervened between the two magus. "Might I suggest a truce?"

Albus glanced at Samuel with a frigid gaze. "All of you are my mentors, Samuel. You taught me what it means to a mage. It pains me to stand against you, all of you but I will not let you kill that child."

Samuel looked rather guilty. "I… understand." Giving a silent look to Nicholas, he said, "Albus, you do understand that, short of a Fidelius, you cannot keep the Council from the boy forever, do you not? Even if you all willing to use the Fidelius, it is no way for a child to be brought up, alone and away from the world. You do understand that" It was not a question.

"I do," Albus replied in resignation.

Samuel nodded. "This is my proposition. The Council will not pursue the boy and in return, you shall be responsible for his care. However, I do know the plethora of responsibilities on your shoulders. You and I both understand that you shall not be able to raise the boy on your own."

Albus frowned. There was a solution to their conundrum but he had discarded the idea when it first occurred to him. Based on the current circumstances, it would be the ideal solution to save the life of the child. "I believe I have a solution. Lily Evans has a muggle sister who is now married, I believe. If I were to give young Harry over to her care… and place certain wards and charms around their home, he would be brought up as a Muggle-born. I could even place some of my people on the watch to ensure that the boy grows up as a normal child."

"A sensible plan," Nicholas accepted begrudgingly. He knew better than to argue when Albus was far too obstinate to recognize a true solution to their problems. "Might I suggest blood wards as part of your protection scheme? I can whip up a ward scheme that draws the requisite power from the child. The magical drain would keep even the Horcrux from gaining enough power to possess the child. However, you must understand the blood wards would activate only when the family has accepted the child on their own accord, free of any compulsions."

"This way, you can ensure that the child is safe and healthy, we can ensure the child does not grow up to be the next Dark Lord and none of us murder him in cold blood. If he does not grow up in the manner we like… Well, just take care of your part and there will be no problems on our end."

Dumbledore nodded reluctantly, the Elder Wand urging him to destroy everybody and everything before him.

Two days later…

"His aunt and uncle will be able to explain everything to him when he's older. I've written them a letter." Albus lied flawlessly. Petunia had already accepted Harry, on her own terms. It was a conversation that felt no inclination to relive and the blood wards would begin functioning as soon as Harry was taken through the front door.

"A letter?" repeated Minerva faintly, sitting back down on the wall. "Really, Albus, you think you can explain all this in a letter? These people will never understand him! He'll be famous — a legend — I wouldn't be surprised if today was known as Harry Potter Day in the future — there will be books written about Harry — every child in our world will know his name!"

"Exactly," said Albus, a grave look visible over the half-moon spectacles he preferred. "It would be enough to turn any boy's head. Famous before he can walk and talk! Famous for something he won't even remember! Can't you see how much better off he'll be, growing up away from all that until he's ready to take it?"

He will be safe, Minerva. He will have a life, as normal as his life can possibly be, one that will not result in the Council killing the boy he can even learn to talk… Forgive me.

Minerva opened her mouth, changed her mind, swallowed, and then said, "Yes — yes, you're right, of course. But how is the boy getting here, Albus?" She eyed his cloak suddenly as though she thought he might be hiding Harry underneath it.

"Hagrid's bringing him."

"You think it — wise — to trust Hagrid with something as important as this?"

"I would trust Hagrid with my life."

"I'm not saying his heart isn't in the right place," said Minerva grudgingly, "but you can't pretend he's not careless. He does tend to — what was that?"

A low rumbling sound had broken the silence around them. It grew steadily louder as they looked up and down the street for some sign of a headlight; it swelled to a roar as they both looked up at the sky — and a huge motorcycle fell out of the air and landed on the road in front of them.

The great vehicle stopped with a lurch and Rubeus Hagrid got off it, before walking off towards them, baby Harry in his arms. He bent his great, shaggy head over Harry and gave him what must have been a very scratchy, whiskery kiss, before handing the baby to the Headmaster.

Albus stepped over the low garden wall and walked to the front door of Number 4 Privet Drive. He laid Harry gently on the doorstep, took a letter out of his cloak, tucked it inside Harry's blankets and pressed his hand onto the baby's little chest, feeling its little heart beating valiantly.

Summoning incredible reserves of power, he transferred an enchantment to the boy, one he felt he no longer deserved to possess.

His bright blue eyes no longer twinkling, he slowly muttered, "You are destined to be wounded, yet I harbor hope that, someday, you shall stand, rise from the dust, your broken wish shall one day, shine eternally." He paused for a moment. "Good luck, Harry Potter."

Jan 2, 1992.

"So - back again, Harry?"

Harry felt as though his insides had turned to ice. He looked at him. Sitting on one of the desks by the wall was none other than Albus Dumbledore, the crazy old man who was the Headmaster of Hogwarts. He had been so desperate to see the mirror that he must have sped past the man. "I — I didn't see you, sir."

"Strange how near-sighted being invisible can make you," said Dumbledore, smiling at the boy in front of him. "So," He said, slipping off the desk to sit on the floor with Harry. "You, like hundreds before you, have discovered the delights of the Mirror of Erised."

"I didn't know it was called that, sir."

"But I expect you've realized by now what it does?"

"It — well — it shows me, my family —"

"And it showed your friend Ron himself as Head Boy."

"How did you know —?"

"I don't need a cloak to become invisible," said Dumbledore gently. The young Weasley boy blamed his family far too much for his behaviour. "Now, can you think what the Mirror of Erised shows us all?"

Harry shook his head.

"Let me explain. The happiest man on earth would be able to use it like a normal mirror. That is, he would look into it and see himself exactly as he is. Does that help?"

Harry thought. Then he said, slowly, "It shows us what we want… whatever we want…"

"Yes and no," said Dumbledore quietly. A part of him felt his heart swell with pride and sorrow at the sight of the young boy. There were no lies to be read within his eyes or heart, only a pure desire of yearning for his parents who had long this left this world. This was the boy the Council feared would bring death and destruction on their heads?

"It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts. You, who have never known your family, see them standing around you. Ronald Weasley, who has always been overshadowed by his brothers, sees himself standing alone, the best of all of them."

"However, this mirror will give us neither knowledge nor truth. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible." Albus paused for a moment, wondering if he should actually tell the boy that the mirror had been brought in, with the secondary goal of identifying just how much the soul shard in Harry had affected the boy's thoughts and actions. The sheer innocence he found in those emerald eyes made him feel like the world' biggest fool at the moment.

There was no further need to test the boy. If the Council claimed the report was false, Albus would throw them in front of the mirror and force them to watch as their pathetic wishes take form. Taking a moment to clear his rather violent thoughts, he said, "The Mirror will be moved to a new home tomorrow, Harry, and I ask you not to go looking for it again."

Albus paused for a moment, knowing very well that with Voldemort being around, anything was possible. "If you ever do run across it, you will now be prepared." He ignored the curious look he received. "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that. Now, why don't you put that admirable cloak back on and get off to bed?"

Harry stood up and nearly moved before a question emerged in his mind. Looking at the Headmaster with a certain level of trepidation, he asked, "Sir — Professor Dumbledore? Can I ask you something?"

"Obviously, you've just done so." Albus smiled. "You may ask me one more thing, however."

"What do you see when you look in the mirror?"

"I? I see myself holding a pair of thick, woollen socks."

Harry stared.

"One can never have enough socks," said Albus. "Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn't get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books." He had a hard time ignoring the fact that his dear sister Ariana had started giving him socks as a birthday gift ever since the day he had ignored everything around him and did what was right, no matter the cost to himself.

He saw the boy put on the cloak and vanish away. Even with his extraordinary Magesight, the Peverell Cloak of Invisibility was beyond him. He knew that if the Council had their way, they would rather have the boy killed, forget letting him find information on his family or receive any of his inheritance.

Luckily, the Cloak was an heirloom, an object he had borrowed from James with the intentions of merely sating his curiosity. For once, the laws of the magical world had aided him in giving the little boy a piece of his family's legacy. Staring at the now closed door, he wondered if the boy actually knew it was Albus who sent him the Cloak on Christmas.

A little smile adorned his face. "It is said that the Cloak hid the bearer from even Death herself. May that comes true for you… Harry Potter. Use it well."

May 20, 1992.

Harry nodded, but stopped quickly, because it made his head hurt. Then he said, "Sir, there are some other things I'd like to know if you can tell me… things I want to know the truth about…"

It pained the old Headmaster to lie to the face of the little boy who had, just a few days ago, survived an encounter with his destined enemy. He could not reveal the truth to the boy living on the edge of the executioner's knife and whose hilt rested in the hands of Albus. There was no safe way for him to reveal even the bare scraps without bringing the knife on his own head and throwing the boy to the wolves baying for blood. It served no purpose at the moment.

However, the truth about Voldemort was an entirely different matter and could be revealed without endangering the boy. But he was only eleven, an age at which children should play games with their friends, dream about flying castles and spend their days in laughter and joy. He had already survived his first brush with death. The boy needed to know everything soon but that time was not now. Hopefully, it never arrived.

"The truth." Albus sighed. "It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should, therefore, be treated with great caution. However, I shall answer your questions unless I have a very good reason not to, in which case I beg you'll forgive me. I shall not, of course, lie."

"Well… Voldemort said that he only killed my mother because she tried to stop him from killing me. But why would he want to kill me in the first place?"

Albus let out a deep sigh. Voldemort had always possessed the dangerous quirk of giving away more information than necessary during talks. During his years of study in Hogwarts, the future Dark Lord had learned to ingratiate himself with all members of staff except Albus, mainly because the future Headmaster had learned to discern the masks people wore to hide their intentions and his highly developed skill in dissembling. Although, when he had originally acquired the skills, he had expected them to be of use in wading through the dangerous waters of the political world, not to detect the intentions of a student who seemed far too perfect in her behavior.

Either way, he was the one man not to be seduced by Voldemort's incredible charm in the school. That status had helped him after the death of Myrtle Warren when the bastard had decided to no longer use the Chamber of Secrets or the monster within. Sadly, none of that would help lie to a child in a matter which, by all rights, he must have been made aware of a long, long time ago.

But how could he, Albus Dumbledore, do that? How was he supposed to inform a young boy that he was destined to fight a Dark Lord? That a prophecy existed which foretold of their inevitable fight to the death? There were no words in the world that would help him explain to a child of eleven years that prophecies were the instruments of Fate and there was nothing anyone on the planet could do to prevent one from being executed, irrespective of the will of the participants.

"Alas, the first thing you ask me, I cannot tell you." Please don't ask, Harry. "Not today. Not now. You will know, one day… put it from your mind, for now, Harry. When you are older… I know you hate to hear this… when you are ready, you will know."

Forgive this foolish old man and his foolish old ways.

Harry knew it would him no good to argue. Adults had rarely given him the information when he asked for it. Why should now be any different? Still, he tried to make another effort towards the crazy old Headmaster who seemed both wise beyond measure and tired beyond words, a dichotomy he would not understand for years to come.

"But why couldn't Quirrell touch me?"

"Your mother died to save you," Albus answered. It was not a lie. "If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He did not realize that love as powerful as your mothers' leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign… To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us has left this world, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin. Quirrell, full of hatred, greed, and ambition, and sharing his soul with Voldemort, could not touch you for this reason. It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good."

He could not reveal that Harry's innate magic, the ancient and once lost the art of Projection, was the reason he was now scarred with the connection to the Dark Lord and the same for which he was now watched like prey by the Council. That the same power for which he was condemned to a life of suffering proved to be the boon that saved his life when Voldemort attempted to end him.

Looking away from the suspicious green eyes, Albus became very interested in the mosaic glass of the windows, trying to convince himself that he had not lied to the boy. There had to be powerful love somewhere, binding Harry to his mother, love that stopped the boy from becoming a bitter, angry young man like Voldemort once was. He had to believe that such a love did exist out there, somewhere. There had to be. Because if it did not… did the world even need to exist…?

"And the Invisibility Cloak - do you know who sent it to me?" Harry asked slowly. He knew the Headmaster had again failed to answer the real question, but the answer did give him some measure of peace. Besides, he had six more years of schooling left.

Keep telling yourself that. He ignored the thought.

Albus looked at him again. "Ah — your father happened to leave it in my possession, and I thought you might like it." Blue eyes twinkled. "Useful thing that cloak… your father used it mainly for sneaking off to the kitchens to steal food when he was here."

"And there's something else…"

"Fire away."

"Quirrell said, Snape —"

"Professor Snape, Harry."

"Yes, him — Quirrell said he hates me because he hated my father. Is that true?"

"Well, they did rather detest each other. Not unlike yourself and Mr. Malfoy. And then, your father did something Snape could never forgive."


"He saved his life."

"What?" Harry asked, bewildered.

"Yes…" said Albus dreamily. "Funny, the way people's minds work, isn't it? Professor Snape couldn't bear being in your father's debt… I do believe he worked so hard to protect you this year because he felt that would make him and your father even. Then he could go back to hating your father's memory in peace…"

Harry tried to understand this but it made his head pound, so he stopped. "And sir, there's one more thing..."

"Just the one?" Dumbledore asked, amused.

"How did I get the Stone out of the mirror?"

Dumbledore inwardly scowled, putting a mask of bright cheerfulness of a man whose experiment had yielded extraordinary results. "Ah, now, I'm glad you asked me that. It was one of my more brilliant ideas, and between you and me, that's saying something. You see, only one who wanted to find the Stone — find it, but not use it — would be able to get it, otherwise, they'd just see themselves making gold or drinking Elixir of Life. My brain surprises even me sometimes… Now, enough questions. I suggest you make a start on these sweets. Ah! Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans! I was unfortunate enough in my youth to come across a vomit-flavored one, and since then I'm afraid I've rather lost my liking for them — but I think I'll be safe with a nice toffee, don't you?" He smiled and popped a golden-brown bean into his mouth. Then he choked and said, "Alas! Ear wax!"

Harry chuckled, elating the old mage.

The 'Stone' had been officially brought in by Albus to serve as a trap for Voldemort. The unofficial reason was to have a source of extremely potent vitality elixir on hand in case something sinister befell the boy because of an altercation with Voldemort. With the prophecy in play, the mage believed that it would be a good idea, and in hindsight, it definitely was. Now, there was certainly no reason to tell the boy that the 'Stone' had been used to create the vitality elixir that had saved his life after Poppy had declared she was unable to save the child.

"Sir," Harry asked one last time.

Albus looked back at him. "One more question, Harry?"

The boy seemed to hesitate for a moment. "Not a question, a… request."

Albus raised an eyebrow. "Go ahead."

Harry spoke in a small voice. "Can I… you know, stay at Hogwarts for the holidays?"

The Headmaster couldn't help but hold back the frown to float over his lips. "Why would you want that, Harry?"

"It's…." The boy hesitated. "Hogwarts is really the first place that has… really felt like home to me." Albus kept a stoic face as the boy continued, "Could I… live here?"

It broke the old man's heart. "Unfortunately, Harry. The rules are quite strict on this matter. Students must go back to their families for the summer. Besides, would not your family be… worried if you stayed away from them?"

The little boy frowned, silent for a while. Then, he looked up at him, hesitant green meeting sad blue. "Yes sir, they will."

June 12, 1993.

"So… it was a basilisk," said one of the shadows sitting in one of the chairs around the large circular conference table. Albus Dumbledore mentally groaned but silently waited for the man to continue. "This is definitive proof that Salazar went around the bend. The man put a basilisk in a school filled with the magical children of the entire Island of Britain. I knew that he was a paranoid bastard but this… No wonder he was chased out, although I always wondered why the other Founders did not take such measures earlier."

Personally, Albus felt that it was a classic example of the pot calling the kettle black. Ignoring his sarcastic inner-voice, He cleared his throat to gain the attention of the Council Members. "We do have some really good news. Harry Potter survived his altercation with the basilisk, -" He ignored more than one scowl at the words. "- and destroyed the diary which I later determined was a Horcrux of Voldemort and Harry's account of the events in the Chamber."

"An enchanted diary…" Perenelle murmured. "An enchanted item is not even close to suitable for the vessel of a Horcrux; the object too frail and the magic too free for an act of binding to occur. Such imperfect Horcrux vessels rarely ever last long before they inevitably decay. I am quite surprised that the diary did not crumble within a decade." She tapped a manicured fingernail on the table. "It is definitely an interesting mystery, one that may answer several questions on the origins of the Horcrux ritual itself."

"Questions, Lady Flamel?" asked another shadow. This time, the voice was distinctly female with an air of strength and superiority. "It is already established that Herpo was the one who created the first Horcrux and the mad fool is long since dead."

Perenelle smiled. "Herpo was the first known user of the Horcrux ritual. It is a distinction that many seem to forget. Like the others who followed in his footsteps, he too was following the directions of people whose names are now lost to the sands of time, Madam. The modifications made by all the users of the ritual over the past three millennia has made it rather difficult to find the original source of the ritual. Not even the 'The Dead King's Banquet'."

Turning to Albus, she said, "I digress. Based on what you have told us, and his history, it seems that your Dark Lord began testing the ritual with the diary when he was still a student at Hogwarts. Correct me if I am wrong, but was there not a death on the premises during the 1940's?"

"You are correct." Albus admitted bitterly. The death of the student was the catalyst that drove him to force the closing of the school and the same reason he had finally entered the Great Wizarding War of Europe to end Grindelwald's mad reign of power. "The student was Myrtle Warren; she died on 13 June 1943. Voldemort framed the then student Hagrid and the acromantula Aragog as those responsible for her murder."

"The stupidity of Wizarding Britain never ceases to amaze me, Dumbledore." The female shadow commented.

"Voldemort probably used her murder to fuel his first ritual, although it can be argued against since we do not yet know when he first began his experiments into the forbidden arte. In all likelihood, she was simply the collateral damage when the Chamber was first opened." Perenelle massaged her temples.

"Is there no way to determine if Myrtle's death fuelled the ritual to make the diary? She still haunts Hogwarts as a ghost, if that helps." Albus asked.

"It is not that simple, Albus," Perenelle replied. "A Horcrux, even one still intact, contains the merest essence of the soul which fuelled its creation. Trying to extract that essence and then identify the victim is a matter of immense difficulty. Even among the vaunted ranks of the Necromancers Guild, such a feat is not performed lightly as the backlash from the identification ritual would demolish a quarter of your heavily warded school, my dear Headmaster."

Albus suppressed a shiver. "I understand, Lady Flamel. But I can confirm that several Horcruxes were made by Voldemort." Several members, including Perenelle, gave muted gasps.

"Beyond the child, Albus?" One of the shadows asked with some level of trepidation.

"Yes," Albus replied, his irritation masked behind a solemn facade. "Unfortunately, I have yet to determine the rest of their number. I was hoping to discern possible locations of the other vessels using the piece we possess."

"The boy?" The shadow who first spoke asked.

Albus mentally scowled. "The diary." He countered. "Horcruxes are notoriously difficult to detect, especially those that have existed for decades. It would of great help if we could use the diary as the base to create the necessary identification spells."

"Did you forget that the diary was stabbed through with the fang of a thousand-year-old basilisk?" asked Perenelle rhetorically. "Any attempts to create such charms using that diary will be highly difficult at best and a fool's errand at worst."

"Could we not separate the signatures?" asked the female shadow.

"I believe we must, at the very least, try to," replied Albus. Facing the entire Council, he said, "It is why I wish to procure the aid of the Necromancers Guild. Any aid they may provide-"

Nicholas interrupted the old mage. "Before we discuss the matter of aid, do answer a question of mine." Staring at curious blue eyes, he asked, "You were offered the position in this Council five decades ago. You chose to refuse the prestigious offer that few ever receive. Yet, in the end, you choose to ask help from the same Council which you supposedly hate and whose oaths you blatantly defied when you chose to step onto the battlefields of Europe during the Great Wizarding War. Do you not think you must first pay for your actions?"

"I believe I have done so since 1946." Dumbledore returned coldly.

"As you say, Supreme Mugwump." Nicholas sneered, the expression odd on his usually composed face. "I once saw potential in you, Albus. You were one of the greatest mages to ever live. Yet you continue to take actions that are detrimental to the world we live in. Do you think I did not realize the purpose for which the false stone was used for? I understood your intentions the moment you mentioned Hogwarts. But I did hold out hope that you would learn the error of your ways and realize what must be done. Instead, you chose to save the life of the boy prophesized to end the-"

"The prophecy states that destruction would follow the reveal of the Last Peverell." Albus interrupted his former mentor. "It does not say that Peverell would be the cause."

"Do you love pretending to be a wizard living in a fairy tale?" Nicholas asked angrily. "As always, you speak of things you do not understand in a manner that infuriates everyone. You saved the boy when he would have died, fool. Instead of allowing the prophecy to be negated through means that would not destroy us, your ideals chose to save the boy."

Albus understood why Nicholas was having this discussion a year later. This was the first time Albus had appeared in front of the Council since Harry had entered Hogwarts and Nicholas was using the situation to turn the Council against him. The sad part was, it was a tactic that might actually work on the rest of the members.

"Do you understand the ramifications of the actions you have taken over the past decade?" Nicholas continued, "What happened to the man who once advocated 'For the Greater Good'? And do not dare bring up Gellert. He was just another power-hungry fool who merely adopted the motto to make his massacre seem legit, much like the mundane, Hitler, he controlled to mask his actions. You have resisted us for decades, Albus, but to what effect?"

"To do what is right." Albus answered coldly, "A factor you seem to repeatedly ignore in your grand scheme of moving the world at your whims. You have been living above the clouds for so long that you don't seem to recognize that people have the right to choose their own path. You do not get to sit there and preach to me, Grandmaster Flamel."

"Enough!" Perenelle snapped, dragging the attention of the entire group, save one, to her. "We are digressing from the point. What needs to be understood right now is that the boy remained alive despite the basilisk venom in his veins, but the soul shard in the diary was completely annihilated. I believe it suspicious that even phoenix tears should be able to heal him, especially when the venom was already in his veins."

"Do you think it was the Peverell blood that-?" Another shadow asked.

Perenelle answered, "It doesn't matter." She turned towards Albus, "Do you have the memory of what happened in the Chamber?"

Albus frowned. "For reason that is as of yet uncertain to me, my scan of the surface thoughts revealed nothing but impenetrable darkness when Harry was talking about the events in the Chamber. I could not risk a deeper scan without harming him."

"It could be that the Horcrux wished to hide the truth of the matter from you or anyone else who wished to know the truth. For all we know, the boy could have already absorbed the soul piece into himself. The imperfect Horcrux was more likely to get assimilated into him, especially since he seems to show none of the signs that a victim of possession might demonstrate."

"What are you insinuating?" Dumbledore questioned, inwardly growling.

"I'm insinuating nothing, Albus." Perenelle said, "Merely stating an observation."

"And did you also observe that it might simply be the magic of the Chamber itself which might be keeping those memories protected against mental intrusions? Perhaps there is a charm that prevents another person from viewing the memories. Or am I, the only one who has ever heard of memory-lock charms?" Albus sneered, completely infuriated at the Ritual Mistress's behavior.

"Or," Perenelle said archly, "the boy died in the Chamber and it is the Horcrux that is living in the form of that abomination. Does it not appear strange that the basilisk venom would destroy a Horcrux in mere moments yet let a twelve-year-old live on long enough to be healed by phoenix tears?"

The entire Council appeared to have been shocked into silence.

"Do not insinuate such things without proper evidence, Lady Flamel," Albus said, holding onto his temper by a strand. "When the boy was later admitted to the infirmary after the fiasco in the Chamber, I personally cast every single spell I knew to identify anything wrong with him. He is still a Horcrux, despite the theory-" He sneered at the word. "-that you attempted to just put forth in your ongoing efforts to have the boy killed."

Nicholas intervened before the fight escalated. "Despite the arguments of my wife and your… passionate defense of the boy, Albus, we do not have actual proof of what happened in the Chamber. Since only a Parselmouth may access it, we cannot-"

"I am sure that if you asked nicely, Harry would help you get in." Albus mocked.

"Do not mock me, Albus." Perenelle returned, "I would sooner die than take help from someone of that accursed bloodline."

"Did you enter the Chamber of Secrets, Dumbledore?" The female shadow asked, knowing Perenelle's propensity for devolving into a rant when the Peverell kid was involved.

"I did," replied Albus. "Two days after Harry left the infirmary, I asked him to lead me into the fabled Chamber and, despite his misgivings over the matter, led me to the place where it all occurred."

"And what did you find?"

"Exactly what I expected to find," Albus replied promptly. "A dead basilisk with its eyes gouged out and a hole the size of a sword through its nose. An empty nest where it originally resided and two or three empty rooms. Before you ask me, no there were no items belonging to Salazar Slytherin in the Chamber. In fact, beyond the carcass, there was nothing in the Chamber."

"Let me answer your next question too. I spent an entire week scouring the Chamber with the help of young Harry and found nothing else of import. You do not need to salivate at the idea of obtaining the legendary tomes of the Founder. I believe that Voldemort or another Parselmouth who discovered the Chamber earlier than the 1940's might have emptied of all objects of value."

"You are forgetting the boy could have hidden them away himself," Perenelle said harshly.

"Are you not being too… hysterical over the entire issue, Lady Flamel?" Albus could not help the comment. "Ever since the day you first laid eyes on him, you have wished for the death of the last Potter. You seem to forget that this was the same boy who lost both his parents and godfather in a single night." Scowling in rage, he said, "Based on your irrational hatred, I cannot help but wonder if you are simply disguising ulterior motives by using the prophecy as an excuse."

Perenelle glowered at the mage. "Stay within your limits, Supreme Mugwump."

"Stay within your senses, Lady Flamel." Albus countered. Then, he stared at the entire Council, or at least those who were present for the current session. "Fifty-one years ago, I was nominated for a seat in this very council itself, but I refused the offer because taking the seat meant ignoring the real world, and the ripples of the decisions taken over the course of my life."

He paused.

"I did not do that. I could not do that. I know that I was partially responsible for Grindelwald's rise. I helped to map his path, I drew up the plans, and I encouraged his ambitions and much more in our shared plans to dominate the muggles. There is not a day that goes by I don't regret my actions. I defied my oath to the Guilds and broke the laws of the Council to join the fight against Grindelwald because I could no longer hide behind excuses. I massacred the necromancer's forces before bringing him to heel. Once my self-appointed task was complete, and the war had ended, I went back to my post as a Hogwarts Professor."

Albus paused again and took a deep breath. "I was condemned by the Guilds and the Council for my actions and I did not complain. You wished to execute me and I did not raise any objections."

"However, now you expect me to ignore your attempts at killing an innocent child who had done nothing but try to live. Is that thought so abhorrent to this Council?"

"It is not just an innocent life, Albus Dumbledore." Perenelle fumed. "It is a choice between a single life and the entire world. The Council cannot take actions based on the needs of an individual. We must focus on the good of all."

"The same Greater Good that justified massacre thousands at the hands of Gellert Grindelwald?" Albus sneered. He could not understand why the Council was so hell-bent on ignoring everything in the wake of their irrational fear. For Merlin's sake, even Fawkes loved the boy.

For the next minute, not a single person spoke. Then, Nicholas Flamel stood up and addressed him. "I think… you should leave, right now, Albus, before we allow more… unpleasant things to fester."

July 25, 1993.

With a snarl, Albus Dumbledore threw today's edition of the Daily Prophet with such force that it knocked several artifacts from one of the tables that littered the room.

He had known, always known that, since the day he had first met the man, that Cornelius Fudge lacked the ability to run a nation. Oh sure, the man had the incredible skill to ensure the media was always in his favor and possessed the necessary charm to seduce his superiors with words and bribes. But he was a complete and utter fool who was elected by the Wizengamot because, a) The most suitable candidates for Minister after the end of the last war were either no unable to take the job, corrupt or otherwise dead, b) He was the only choice that would not anger any faction and c) The Houses could easily mould the man to their wishes.

Despite all the political capital, Albus had expended, he was unable to prevent Cornelius from becoming the Minister of Magic. It certainly did not help that most of the Light faction were either dead, grieving for their loved ones or no longer possessed the power to shape the political landscape. The Pureblood faction had taken advantage of the post-war chaos splendidly and with many of the Death Eaters escaping using the Imperius excuse, their position had strengthened exponentially.

And Cornelius had performed to the exact expectations of the Houses. Albus watched helplessly as the man let the factions tear the ideals for which the people fought against Voldemort. By the time 1990 arrived, the British Wizarding World had returned to the same state it was in before Voldemort had arrived on their shores. When that realization first hit him, Albus had destroyed his office in his rage and it was not helped by the fact that Cornelius had chosen to award himself the prestigious Order of Merlin, a prestigious honor bestowed upon those individuals whose brave actions had defended Wizarding Britain from both internal and external threats.

Albus had approached Cornelius after Harry's first brush with Voldemort possessed Quirrell to try and convince the man that Voldemort was still alive only for the fool to dismiss all the evidence. He did not even consent to have the DOM investigate the matter and had effectively ordered Amelia to never help the Headmaster in the matter.

When students in the school were being petrified throughout the previous year, Albus had repeatedly approached Cornelius to send Aurors to investigate the matter. Yet, the so-called Minister had refused, citing that news of such attacks would result in the school being closed. The Headmaster would have gladly consented to the measure but there was no use in arguing with the man. Approaching the Daily Prophet for help in the matter would do no good and the Ministry had begun intercepting the owls from Hogwarts to ensure the news did not spread.

The Headmaster hated the truth of the matter. Muggle-borns were being petrified and, thus, there was no need to look into the matter when the Minister's benefactors and their children remained unharmed. After Harry had killed the basilisk and saved the life of young Ginevra Weasley, Cornelius had not even deigned to acknowledge the fact, and Albus knew Lucius was behind the entire fiasco.

The Minister's cowardice in any matter that required him to grow a spine had frayed Albus's patience badly and now the fool wished to place Dementors around a school because he was worried about their resident celebrity from being harmed by the boy's now escaped godfather, Sirius Black.

DEMENTORS! Around a school full of young children! Does that fool wish to kill the students!?

Albus stood up from the Headmaster's chair and moved to the window, looking at the grounds from the splendid view offered by his office.

He could not even fathom the notion of those soul-sucking monstrosities gliding across the grounds of Hogwarts. It was unthinkable. Even the ICW would have denied permission to use the abominations for such a purpose but it was an undeniable fact that Dementors would be placed around Hogwarts and that the decision to place them was taken in less time than it took for the Floo Regulator to install a new Floo. It had led to one simple conclusion.

Someone, sitting in the shadows, was pulling the strings. Strings which had facilitated the smooth passing of such an erroneous decision without the slightest of issues. It brought forth his suspicion about the sudden appointment of the new Senior Undersecretary to the Minister, Dolores Umbridge. The woman was practically a nobody in the political circles and did not have any worthwhile experience to her resume either. The official report stated that she had studied at Hogwarts for two years before shifting to Durmstrang where she had completed the remainder of her magical education. Before her current appointment to the British Ministry of Magic, the woman had been employed at the ICW, working as a mere clerk in the Alexandrian Archives. Almost overnight, Cornelius had plucked her from the position and designated her as his closest confidant.

It screamed the word 'Conspiracy' in big, bold, black letters on virgin white paper.

Albus was reminded of the ICW meeting he had attended the previous week, where he heard the other members voice their opinions about how Babajide Akingbade, the Wizengamot representative from the Central African Ministry of Magic, was being considered for the position of Supreme Mugwump. It appeared that his last meeting with the Council had soured his relations with the members, especially the Flamels.

Even Cornelius's decision seemed like something the Flamels might pull to teach their former student a lesson in obedience.

But still, Dementors! Even with his position as the Headmaster, how could he possibly keep track of those monstrosities, especially when the revered Council seemed ready to do anything to teach him a lesson? A vindictive part of him wished to be a Gryffindor for once and show them why it was not a good idea to anger one of the most powerful mages in history… It was a fool's dream and Harry would be left to die if Albus was not present to hold the threat at bay.

More than that, the Council, despite their irrational fear of a child, served as the guardians of the magical world. They were all that stood against the Knights and worse, the Shadows of Ravenborough.

What do I do?

Albus screamed out in frustration. Not only would those monsters be responsible for the nightmares the students would no doubt have, it was not a stretch to think they might just catch a student unawares and suck his soul-

Blue eyes widened. Those... Imbeciles.

It was a farce; he was sure of it. A farce the Council had employed to discreetly kill the boy. The Council must know that Harry might not be the only student the Dementors would target. It would certainly not be the first time that-

The thought stopped midway, as a realization hit him.

Of course! Dumbledore instantly raced towards the fireplace, threw in some floo powder and yelled, "Department of Mysteries. Croaker's Den."

September 1, 1993.

There was a knock on the door of Minerva's office and the old mage who sat in her seat responded, "Enter, Miss Granger."

The door opened and a nervous Hermione Granger walked in and shut the door behind her.

Albus Dumbledore, seated behind the sprawling table of the Transfiguration Professor, glanced over the third-year Gryffindor. Indicating the chair before him, he said, "Take a seat, Miss Granger."

Hermione did it without a word.

"I assume that Professor McGonagall has intimated the details regarding this meeting?" Albus spoke sternly, but not without kindness.

Hermione bobbed her head so quickly that a muggle child might have likened her to one of the characters from the cartoons serialized on televisions.

"I must ask you a few questions first, Miss Granger," said Albus, blue eyes trained on brown. "Shall we begin?"

Hermione nodded.

"Why do you wish to take all the electives for the third year, Miss Granger?"

Hermione bit her lip, wondering which answer would ensure she got her wish.

"I will not deny your request for speaking the truth, Miss Granger," said Albus.

Hermione spoke hesitantly. "I wish to learn everything I can about Magic, Headmaster."

Albus smiled sadly. "OWL Exams are highly strenuous periods of intense study; students spend their entire fifth year in preparation for them with many of them ending up in the infirmary or worse due to the lengths they push themselves to. The timetable was designed to ensure that no student could take more than three electives during their third year. This system was developed after more than one overzealous student had pushed themselves to the brink in years past."

"So, I must ask. Why do you wish to take on such a burden that will inevitably harm you?"

Hermione frowned. "I… I don't want to miss anything about magic, Professor. Runes, Creatures, and Arithmancy were my original choices as they seemed to be the most interesting options. Then, I learned that Divination was an attempt to see the future using all sorts of things like crystal balls and tea leaves and cards. Muggle studies would be quite fascinating as I will be learning about them from a wizard's perspective."

There was a bright gleam in her eyes. "I want to learn everything I can about magic. This-This world is really wonderful and amazing and- and terrifying… But I still want to be a part of it. For that, I need to know everything I can, Professor. I have to do my best. I have to."

For the first time, Albus Dumbledore frowned at her. This was one of the reasons he pitied overzealous students. They wished to prove their worth so much, either to themselves or to others, that they tended to ignore the consequences of their actions. "Miss Granger, I never chose all the electives because I knew and understood that I did not have to study everything at once. You can still choose the standard three electives, complete the necessary OWL's and NEWT's and then take on another subject to learn. The Department of Education does hold independent testing for adult witches and witches."

Hermione shook her head. "I am sorry, Professor, but I wish to study what I can right now rather than delay it."

Albus sighed mentally. He had seen that expression for too many times. There was no way he was going to persuade her from the path she had chosen. "As Professor McGonagall might have mentioned, I have the power to authorize your wish to take up all five electives. But let me warn you again. It might have detrimental effects on your health."

"A few hours of lost sleep are of no consequence as long as I can more about magic." Hermione returned stubbornly.

Albus relaxed into his chair, observing the girl. "I have a proposition for you, Miss Granger, but regardless of whether you accept it or not, you must swear to keep the contents of our discussion a secret from everyone. Can you do that?"

Hermione nodded. She had studied the subject of vows and oaths the previous year when someone mentioned that Harry could perform an oath to prove that he was not the Heir of Slytherin. Once she had learned of them and their consequences, however, she had expressly forbidden Harry from performing. The books had described pretty gruesome consequences for poorly worded oaths or oath-breakers. But, this was Headmaster Dumbledore, the greatest wizard of their age. "I can, sir."

"Very well," Albus replied. He opened one of the drawers and pulled out what seemed to be a long, silver chain with a little hourglass attached at the end like a pendant. "This, Miss Granger, is a Time-Turner. A device that allows its bearer, in this case, you, to literally jump back in time."

"Time?" Hermione gulped. While the magical world had its own share of wonders, she had certainly not expected to deal with time travel of all things.

"I see you are aware of some of the possible consequences of manipulating Time." Albus returned slowly. Having a highly rigid and structured mental landscape was a veritable feast for an accomplished Legilimens, and he could not help himself from peeking into her mind every now and then. "As you are aware, Miss Granger, the consequences of time travel are extremely… dangerous, and can even lead to loss of life."

Hermione gulped once again.

Albus observed the girl's reaction. Wilbert Croaker had intimated to her about their newest product from the Time division- an experimental product that they called 'Time-Turner'. A small device that allowed an individual to travel back in time by a few hours. The Unspeakable needed a… guinea pig, a test subject who would use the device exactly as they were instructed, and did not create any paradoxes.

Unfortunately, no one among the Unspeakables could be chosen since, being researchers themselves, they would become either over-paranoid or… Well, never mind. They needed an individual who was not part of the DOM but trustworthy enough to use the device without causing trouble.

Albus had manipulated the Head of the DOM by playing on the research angle with the promise that Albus himself would directly oversee the test subject and swore a vow to never use the device for selfish reasons. The Headmaster had decided it would be a good idea to have such a device on hand, at least for as long as the dementors were… guests of the school.

The Headmaster leaned forward. "Understand, Miss Granger. There are certain rules that you must follow without exception or deviation. The rules are in place to ensure that the very essence of your existence is not erased due to a paradox you have created."

Ensuring he had her full attention, Albus continued his explanation. "First: The Time-Turner will be locked to you and you only. No one else will be able to use it and none must lay eyes on the device. Second: Each of your classes is an hour long. You turn the hourglass, also called the dial, by a single full turn and you shall travel back by an hour. Third: You must not be seen by anyone when you use the device. Fourth and the most important rule: Your past self must never be allowed to see your present self. You must follow these rules to the letter, Miss Granger." His tone was extremely grave.

"You must understand; the ministry was quite skeptical about the matter. I had work considerably hard and expend a few favors to ensure you received this device." A wrinkled finger pointed to the Time-Turner. "I had to explain that you were an extremely talented witch and only wanted the device to further your studies…" He trailed off for effect, watching the hero-worship rise in her eyes. "I hope you understand and respect the level of work I had to do to acquire this for you."

Hermione's eyes were as wide as saucers. "I am…. I am honored, Headmaster."

"Good." Albus nodded. "There are a few rules I failed to mention. You must never go back in time by more than an hour. Once you do travel back, you must wait for the time to pass before you try again."

Hermione nodded.

"You must keep this a secret from everyone, and I do mean everyone, Mis Granger." Albus gave a pointed look.

Hermione nodded again.

"And three, you must ensure that your past self never, and I repeat, never sees you. It will lead to a paradox, and we do not want that."

Hermione bobbed her head instantly.

Dumbledore paused. "Since we have reached an accord, Miss Granger, shall we proceed to the oath?"

June 13, 1994.

Albus Dumbledore was absolutely fuming. Once again, he congratulated himself at being able to look at seemingly unconnected events and deduce logical patterns among them, a skill that had served him well through the years. Muggles called it 'being a deductive genius', although the description failed to do justice to the skill. One of the benefits of being a Level Seven Occlumens was the creation of an extremely stable mind-palace with an information-recall ability second to none. This was the closest anyone had ever come to Total Memory Recall.

He had spent a few hours connecting several random events comprising of the vanishing hippogriff, a powerful Patronus and Sirius Black broke out of Flitwick's office; events which had occurred within the span of three hours. It was far too serendipitous to be called a coincidence. Plus, the act of two innocent lives being saved from execution was certainly a hard-earned victory.

Since the Time-Turner had been blood-locked to Hermione Granger, he had sent her and Harry back in time to complete the tasks he knew they would and had waited patiently while distracting Cornelius from noticing anything was amiss. Not that it was a difficult feat to accomplish. Cornelius had the attention span of a fish if gold or favors were not involved.

It truly was one of his more brilliant ideas, if he might be allowed to say so.

Albus took a moment to bask in his success before his mind turned towards the more obscure, and infinitely more dangerous plot that was brewing right underneath his nose all year.

Someone had been manipulating events to ensure the dementors were stationed at Hogwarts and then did everything they could to make sure their target would be killed in a manner that would place the blame on the abominations. That, someone, had manipulated the Ministry to such a degree that any attempts by Albus to have them removed failed spectacularly.

The silver lining found in the entire situation was that Sirius was proven innocent in the matters of betrayal and young Harry now had his godfather, at least in a limited manner.

Albus was guilty of the fact that he had deliberately, and with forethought, ensured that an innocent man was sent to Azkaban while a disgusting traitor was allowed to roam free under his nose. The latter grated on his nerves more than the former. But his anger at himself did not stop him from recognizing the true nature of the events.

After their unauthorized entry into the grounds during the Quidditch match, Albus had ordered the dementors to stay outside the boundaries of the school and had made his point clear by incinerating two dozen of their lot.

Someone or something had compelled to come into the grounds when Sirius and Harry had entered the Forbidden Forest, and they were alone and cut off from all aid. He found it highly suspicious that the dark abominations were able to track Sirius when the man was so close to the castle and they were on the boundaries.

Albus had spent hours trying to fit the pieces together. As the last piece fell into place, he felt a blizzard flow across his spine.

The dementors were not there to kill Sirius Black. They were there to kill Harry Potter.

It explained everything. The first attack on the train, the Quidditch match and now the lake… There were too many coincidences. Someone had tried to kill Harry, the subject of not one but two prophecies.

The good thing about the manipulation was the sheer skill, resources, knowledge, and power required to manipulate an entire government and dementors narrowed the list of suspects to a manageable number. The problem was none of the names were people he could talk to without creating an international incident or starting a war.

If he did not already suspect the Council, Albus might have considered Azazel to be his prime suspect for that person, whoever he or she was, was certainly capable of the feat. But from what his former mentors and everyone in the know had been able to tell him, Azazel had never endangered children. It did not fit his normal modus operandi.

The Council on the other hand…

Albus grit his teeth. He would need to secure even more protections for the boy. Perhaps if he-

No! It is too early.

The mage frowned at his indecision. Leaning on the windowsill, he stared at the part of the Forbidden Forest where the light of Harry's Patronus had shone with the brightness of the sun.

Before Remus left the school due to Severus's grudge, Albus had spoken to the man regarding the lessons he gave Harry. That, together with the light Legilimency scans of the boy's memories, had provided him with a clear picture of what had occurred.

Remus had spent months training Harry only for the boy to barely manage a shield which, according to the former Defence professor, was about the same size and shape as the one he used to save Harry on the train.

Albus had felt a migraine at the explanation. Not only was Remus ignorant about the right method to teach Harry – a fact that could not be remedied without serious repercussions - he also did not understand the true requirements to cast the Patronus.

So, how on earth did Harry Potter cast a corporeal Patronus? The only way he could be to witness the spell being cast and the person who had cast it was his future self…

Of course! Albus cursed himself for missing the solution. He was well aware of the boy's Origin and his status as an incarnation. He had spent years trying to learn as much as he could about the art of Projection; he had never before encountered a magecraft about which so little was known. But there were pieces out there, references to a rather queer term known as 'Synchronicity'. From what he could gather, it was a phenomenon in which a magus could pick up skills from those who were extremely, closely related to him through means of magic that was yet to be understood.

There were a few cases where twins were found to be equally proficient in the arts the other specialized in. In one highly documented incident, a nine-year-old sorcerer was able to cast spells that her mother had not used in decades. Furious research into the matter for centuries had revealed a highly obscure piece of magic tied such people together on a scale that was unprecedented.

Scholars of esoteric lore had long since theorized that encountering our future selves might result in a 'Synchronicity' event that might allow us to obtain knowledge that would usually take decades. Although, any attempts at traveling to the future had seen the individuals cast into a void from which they had yet to return if they ever would.

But Harry had seen his future self before traveling into the past. During that single moment where Harry had witnessed himself casting a fully corporeal Patronus charm, a synchronicity event must have occurred that transferred the knowledge to himself which later allowed him to project the spell.

A projection… of a projection. Is that… is that even possible?

It did not matter. Whether such a thing was possible or not, Harry Potter had cast a fully corporeal Patronus. The boy had pushed so much power through the spell that, for a few minutes, the Forbidden forest had lit up with the brightness of the sun.

The fact that Harry could ooze that much power despite the blood wards and the limiters placed on the boy made Albus shiver in excitement and, to a certain extent, fear. Harry Potter could not be allowed to go over to the Dark Side, Albus could not allow it to occur although a vindictive part of him could not help but smile at the fact that the Council was pushing the boy onto the very path they wished him to avoid.

With a look of absolute determination, Albus Dumbledore sat down to plot.

September 4, 1994

"Ah, Alastor. Come on in." Albus replied from his high backed chair behind the Headmaster's desk.

The paranoid ex-Auror walked into the Headmaster's office as the door closed behind him, his replacement electric blue eye spinning wildly. He walked straight to the chair that Albus did not indicate towards and plonked himself on the comfortable seat. "You needed me for something, Albus?"

Albus noticed the way the man continued to evade eye contact. It had been an ongoing theme since after the dustbin incident which Arthur had resolved by confounding and obliviating the muggle policemen who had become involved in the matter.

After that incident, during their meetings, Albus had noticed the man twitch at sounds and other people more than usual but he had chalked it up to the fact that he was spooked in his own home. There were periods where the man had been far more paranoid than usual. The Headmaster even remembered an incident where the man had refused to have noodles in a perfectly random noodle stall because the green shreds of the broth looked like solidified snake venom.

Albus would have shaken his head and dismissed the matter if the behavior had not persisted and then there was the odd quirk where Moody would lick his outer lip with a flick of his tongue. He had never seen it before.

Questions had to wait as Hogwarts, and the Ministry was preparing for the Triwizard Tournament and the arrival of the contingents from the other two schools, Beauxbatons Academy of Magic and the Durmstrang Institute in less than two months. With Barty Crouch running around trying to ensure the Ministry was prepared for the event and Ludo Bagman doing his very best job at being the most incompetent Ministry Head Albus had ever seen – and that was saying something – there was no time to question his friend regarding the new behavior.

Then the Death Eater attack at the Quidditch World Cup occurred and Albus was forced to talk to the ICW and the representatives of France and Bulgaria to help continue a tournament he had vehemently fought against, and the remainder of August had passed in a blur before the first day of the term began.

But the past three days of interactions with his friend Alastor made Albus realize on undeniable fact: This was not the real Alastor Moody. His extremely low levels of paranoia, his incessant need to lick his outer lips and the eye which constantly spun in erratic turns when the real Alastor preferred to keep the eye pointed to the left and just below eye contact with another person.

The imposter's casual demeanor did nothing to hide his incessantly curious looks towards the books and artifacts that littered the office for decades. In many ways, it reminded him of the expected behavior of a Ravenclaw. Combined with that strange quirk of his tongue, Albus felt a niggling in his mind as to the identity of the man but he could not put his finger on it.

The previous day, Albus had visited the imposter in his quarters and the faint smell of lacewing flies hit his nostrils. From there, he had concluded the imposter was definitely using Polyjuice Potion. Since the potion needed samples from a live being, it meant that Alastor was being kept close at hand, probably in the multi-compartment trunk he had noticed in the far corner of the circular room.

All of those events had led to this moment. Albus had invited the imposter so that the threat if needed, could be neutralized in a private setting without risking either the students or the staff

"Alastor," He replied slowly, gauging the reaction to his words, "I need you to teach the students about the Unforgivables."

Instantly, 'Alastor Moody' looked up at him, gnarled lips twisted into something that was almost but not quite a frown. "Unforgivables, Albus? I would have pegged you to be the last person to ask such a thing, and from a washed up paranoid bastard like me."

Albus put on an air of concern, "We both know the Dark Lord is rising again, Alastor." He noticed the imposter smother a smile. "War is coming, whether we like it or not. The students need to be prepared. As much I hate to ask this, they need to know. I am sorry, old friend."

"A'right." The imposter replied gruffly. "You've got a point. But ya think the lads and lasses might be the same after I show them?"

Albus nodded, as he considered the question. "I understand your concern, Alastor. But the students need to be prepared for what awaits them should Voldemort rise."

The imposter suppressed a flinch at the name. Nodding, he pulled his private flask and drank what Albus knew was Polyjuice.

"Very well, Alastor. That will be all. I suppose I will give a visit to your defense classes as well."

"Night, Albus." The imposter stood up and walked three steps towards the door when the voice of Albus floated from his back.

"Alastor, remember our discussion at the grounds of the World Cup?"

The imposter did not tense at the unexpected question as he wracked his brain for a clue. "What about it, Albus?"

There was a smile in the Headmaster's voice. "Don't forget that Polyjuice has a shelf life of three weeks."

The imposter's eyes widened for a fraction of a second before he spun around with unexpected grace and tried to draw his wand only for a flash of red to inundate his entire world.

Halloween, 1994.

Albus Dumbledore could not believe what he was seeing. The burnt slip of parchment should not have appeared at all with a name that should have been in the Goblet of Fire at all after the precautions placed to ensure that Voldemort's plan did not come to pass.

After he had stunned and legilimized the imposter whose identity had come as a surprise to Albus, he had obliviated and memory charmed Barty Crouch Junior to prevent him from noticing anything was amiss. After all, if your enemy did not realize you were onto him, why give away your hand? It would ensure that he could control any changes that Voldemort might choose to implement and help prevent Harry from being in more danger than was necessary.

He had checked the Riddle Manor at Little Hangleton, but other than a few traces of dark magic and the signs of a Horcrux, there was nothing in the house, and any apparition tracks were too eroded to properly track their destinations.

Since then, he had done everything he possibly could to ensure that the Goblet was as secure. There were wards placed around the ancient artifact that prevented any ghosts or wraiths from being able to approach it. He did leave a small gap in the security to ensure that Crouch Junior could execute his doomed-to-fail plan, an opening that Junior had taken without much hesitation or thought.

Albus had to stifle a chuckle at watching the fake Moody walk into a trap that the real Alastor would have first checked in thirty different ways before creating his own opening to do his deed.

For the past twenty-four hours, the Headmaster had rested easy, knowing that Harry was now safe from the machinations of the Dark Lord. But now…

"Harry Potter." Albus croaked. Composing himself, his keen-eyed gaze shifted at the boy seated at the Gryffindor table. A part of his mind could not help but point out that for once in his life, Harry was not involved in the situation because he and his friends had chosen to involve themselves.

But there was no way that Barty Crouch Junior could have executed his plan to perfection. There simply was no chance of him accomplishing the task with Albus watching his every move. Maybe… Maybe, the boy had asked an older student to throw his name in – Albus was sure he had not placed a ward to detect such a move and the Goblet did not care about the age of the participants. The Triwizard Tournament was an extremely prestigious event where merely being chosen as one of the champions would ensure that people noticed you. The boy might have been egged on by one of his friends, probably Ronald Weasley, into participating and, as he had for the past three years, must acquiesce to their wishes.

That must be it. That has to be it.

He observed the boy's reaction. Harry Potter seemed just as stunned as the rest of the student body who were now staring at him with various emotions. Harry himself seemed to be torn between surprise and… fear?

Please… let it be that… Harry. Please…

Albus cleared his throat, nodded towards Minerva and called out, "Harry. Up here, if you please!"

Ignoring the rest of the Great Hall, Albus followed the boy into the ante-chamber, where the other three champions were waiting. Unfortunately, Maxime, Karkaroff and the imposter just had to intervene at that moment to play twenty questions.

"Otherwise, we would, of course, have brought along a wider selection of candidates from our own schools." Karkaroff continued his spiel angrily.

"It's no one's fault but Potter's, Karkaroff," Severus spoke softly. His black eyes were alight with malice. "Don't go blaming Dumbledore for Potter's determination to break rules. He has been crossing lines ever since he arrived here —"

"Thank you, Severus," said Albus firmly, cutting the man's rant. He had eyes for only one person in the entire room.

Excusing himself, he strode forward towards the emerald-eyed boy, his Legilimency in full effect. "Did you put your name into the Goblet of Fire, Harry?" he asked calmly.

Please say yes…. Please say yes…

Harry clearly denied the accusation, the truth confirmed through a light Legilimency probe.

Ignoring the snorts from the other champions, Maxime, Karkaroff and the impatient snarl from Severus, Albus asked, "Did you ask an older student to put it into the Goblet of Fire for you?"

"No!" Harry denied vehemently.

Albus closed his eyes at the truth. He had been out-played once again.

He tried very hard to compose himself as the accusations and expressions of outrage erupted in the rage. They were a bunch of bloody hypocrites. Not only were they accusing a fourteen-year-old of cheating wards placed by an extremely powerful mage, they were accusing the most famous and one of the richest wizards alive of trying to steal the spotlight and the rewards of the Tournament. Fools parading as Heads of Institutions…

Maxime was always quick to anger and spells. Granted, she had suffered under heavy bias due to her status as a half-giant but it did not excuse her from not being above the very things she was accused of. Her highly impetuous nature had allowed her to secure her position as the Headmistress but it had cost her far too much. It was a wonder that the French government had not sacked her yet.

Karkaroff was a Death Eater who had sold out his comrades in the hopes of escaping his sentencing. It was the only way he could as he was neither of Noble lineage or did he once occupy a powerful position in government. The fool had left Britain and sought refuge with the Bulgarian Battle-Mage Guild and later, the Durmstrang Institute. The man had not set foot on British soil in twelve years yet now, the same coward brazenly spoke of treachery. Why Alastor chose to capture the man instead of killing him… He would ask his friend once the situation was resolved.

Staring at the group as they continued to bicker, Albus suppressed a snort at the theory of a Confundus charm hoodwinking the Goblet, and the rest of the Heads and Ministry officials considering it.

The Confundus charm was designed to sow confusion in living beings and objects, true. But it was not capable of affecting those with sufficient willpower who could shake it off or objects whose innate magical strength or complexity rendered the charm useless.

And the Goblet of Fire was not a weak artifact. There was a reason it was stored in the most secure vaults in the Alexandrian Archives of the ICW. Members of the Illusionists Guild had found the wooden artifact over two millennia ago in the crumbling ruins of a tower in eastern Siberia from where it was transferred to the Runemasters Guild for study. After two centuries of study, it was concluded that the Goblet was some kind of impartial adjudicator used by an extinct civilization to judge champions; of what kind was still up for debate. The Runenmeisters, also known as Rune Masters, from the Guild had discovered the control schema of the ancient artifact etched into interlocking pieces of wood along the surface coated with a material that the most accomplished Artificers of the age were hard-pressed to identify.

Once the Masters from the Guilds understood the nature of the artifact, but not its origins, it was placed in highly secure vaults until it was needed. When the Three Great Schools of Europe had decided to create the Triwizard Tournament, they had asked the ICW to provide an impartial judge at which point it was decided that the Goblet of Fire would, under the directions of a Master Artificer, serve as the adjudicator for the competition, and it has stayed that way since.

And these fools thought such an artifact could be hoodwinked by a child? Albus wondered if he should end the façade of the imposter at the moment. However, on reflection, it was not a wise move. Voldemort would realize he knew all the information given to Barty Crouch and the game would no longer be safe for Harry.

At the moment, Albus knew one thing for certain. Someone, and he had a very good idea of the party responsible, was playing all her cards. The contracts created by the Goblet of Fire were unbreakable. There was no, absolutely no way to get Harry Potter out of the Triwizard Tournament.

A tournament that was infamous for getting its champions killed.

"Well played," he muttered sarcastically inside his head, as he walked away, leaving Ludo Bagman to deal with the useless details of what the champions could expect.

When Perenelle Flamel was the pulling the shots, the idea of expecting anything was a foolish mistake.

"I have to look into the details of the contract." He decided, "Harry Potter must survive, no matter the cost."

June 24, 1995.

"He said my blood would make him stronger than if he'd used someone else's," Harry spoke like he lived outside the experience. "He said the protection my — my mother left me — he'd have it too. And he was right — he could touch me without hurting himself, he touched my face."

Albus Dumbledore allowed himself a tiny fraction of a second to treasure the success of his plan. When Barty Crouch Junior had revealed, under Imperius, that Voldemort planned to use Harry's blood for the resurrection ritual, he had contacted some of his more… unsavory contacts to find the details of possible resurrection rituals that involved the blood of an enemy or child.

The aid given by the Necromancer's Guild, alongside the help of a certain shaman from the west coast of Africa, had given him an excellent understanding of the results that might arise from Voldemort using the blood of Harry to power his resurrection ritual.

They could not have been more pleasing.

When Voldemort used the blood of his enemy, the Dark Lord had unwittingly anchored Harry to live. The Dark Lord did not realize that the resurrection ritual employed by him was an incomplete Horcrux ritual that would tie the subject of the resurrection to his enemy whose blood was employed. In this case, the ritual would bind the Dark Lord to the Horcrux as it was more closely related to him than Harry Potter ever was, despite their shared ancestry.

Never in his life had Albus thanked the Root more than he did at that moment.

With the bond between the two now strengthened to such a powerful degree, any soul magic affecting Harry would have far greater effects on the Horcrux in him. It also meant that the next time Voldemort's Killing curse struck Harry, the boy would be able to destroy the Horcrux present in him. There was the tiny chance that the boy might die, but after the events of tonight, Albus was more than confident that Harry Potter, son of James and Lily Potter, was up to the task.

Harry had not only lived with a Horcrux, an abomination that was capable of corrupting things in terrifying ways, for years, the boy had also been part of the enemy's resurrection ritual which would ensure Harry's survival. Looking at the events objectively, one would think that even Death itself refused to let the boy walk into the 'next great adventure'.

What could be more fitting for the descendant of the Master of Death?

However, this was not the right time to tell Harry. Too many ears and far too much attention was now on the boy. There was time yet.

"Very well," Albus replied, sitting down in the chair opposite Harry, his occlumentic barriers and emotional dampeners hiding his true thoughts and feelings. "Voldemort has overcome that particular barrier. Harry, continue, please."

Harry went on; he explained how Voldemort had emerged from the cauldron, and told them all he could remember of Voldemort's speech to the Death Eaters. Then he told how Voldemort had untied him, returned his wand to him, and prepared to duel.

But Albus was no longer listening to Harry. Well, not to his words anyway. He was using the full extent of his skills in legilimency on the boy, feasting upon the memories of his mindscape, a task made harder by the highly unstructured nature of the boy's mindscape.

He was helped by the boy's narration as it brought the memories to the forefront of his mind. He watched with such fascination that, for a few moments, he had slipped into the psyche of Harry; it was a mistake he had to correct a few times. He witnessed the strange golden beam of light and the souls – No, imprints of the people emerge from Voldemort's wand. The sheer impossibility of the situation had boggled his senses. It was a very good thing that his Occlumency was quite excellent because he was sure that he would otherwise be jumping for joy.

"The wands connected?" Sirius asked, looking from Harry to Albus. "But why?"

Shaken out of his musings, Albus affected an arrested look. "Priori Incantatem." He muttered slowly and saw a flash of understanding pass through Harry. He was extremely curious about that.

"The reverse-spell effect?" Sirius exclaimed sharply.

"Exactly," said Albus. "Harry's wand and Voldemort's wand share cores. Each of them contains a feather from the tail of the same phoenix. This Phoenix, in fact," He added, and pointed at the scarlet-and-gold bird, perching peacefully on Harry's knee.

"My wand's feather came from Fawkes?" Harry said, amazed.

"Yes," Albus nodded. "Mr. Ollivander wrote to tell me you had bought the second wand, the moment you left his shop four years ago."

"So what happens when a wand meets its brother?" Sirius asked.

"They will not work properly against each other," Albus paused for a moment. "If, however, the owners of the wands force the wands to do battle… a very rare effect will take place. One of the wands will force the other to regurgitate spells it has performed — in reverse. The most recent first... and then those which preceded it."

He stared at Harry's face as if gazing into the boy's soul to confirm his understanding of the situation. He had not lied to the boy and his godfather. Priori Incantatem was the reverse-spell effect and the stronger of the two wands would force the other into a battle of wills.

However, he had omitted an important and obscure piece of wandlore that was known only to a handful of individuals. For True Priori Incantatem to occur between brother wands, the spells cast must be of equal power and of the same nature i.e. the spells must be the same.

That was the issue Albus currently faced. On one hand, the Priori Incantatem effect had cleared occurred during the battle in the graveyard. Harry's memories did not lie and the boy was not yet capable of Occlumency to create false memories. On the other, the boy had cast an Experlliarmus of all things at a Killing Curse.

The Disarming charm against one of the most powerful pieces of ritualistic soul magic, to initiate Priori Incantatem among brother wands…

Since when did the Disarming charm become equivalent in nature, effect, and power to a Killing curse, especially one cast by Voldemort?

It was an anomaly that Albus was hard pressed to explain. There was no possible way that two completely different spells had linked the brother wands. It was just not possible.

Sure, there were a few cases where a weaker spell had overpowered a stronger one by dint of pure power. Albus had read of such instances during his apprenticeship at the Battle-Transfiguration Guild. However, none of those cases involved the Killing Curse and they certainly did not cause Priori Incantatem.

By Merlin! How did Harry Potter invoke the brother wand effect? It is just not possible, not unless the spell was re-transfigured mid-cast. And the only way Harry would even learn the skill-

Blue eyes imperceptibly widened. Was it possible?

Did Harry's innate art of Projection transfigure his Disarming charm into the Killing Curse? Just like the Halloween night of 1981…?

It was the first time Albus had truly witnessed what Projection was capable of. The ability to counterfeit an opponent's magic and cast it back… no wonder the Council was so fearful. If Harry ever came in contact with Family Magic, or worse… True Magic…. He shuddered at the idea.

"Which means," Albus continued his explanation to the audience before him. "That some form of Cedric must have appeared.

"Diggory came back to life?" said Sirius sharply.

"No spell can reawaken the dead," Albus replied heavily. Not even the fabled resurrection stone, the one artifact he had coveted for years after Ariana's death until the true nature of the Hallows was revealed to him. "All that would have happened is a kind of reverse echo. A shadow of the living Cedric would have emerged from the wand… am I correct, Harry?"

"He spoke to me," Harry said. He was suddenly shaking again. "The… the ghost Cedric, or whatever he was, spoke."

"An echo," said Albus. "Which retained Cedric's appearance and character. I am guessing other such forms appeared… less recent victims of Voldemort's wand…"

"An old man," Harry said, his throat still constricted. "Bertha Jorkins. And…"

"Your parents?" Albus muttered quietly. It was not a question.

"Yes," Harry answered. Sirius's grip on Harry's shoulder was now so tight it was painful.

"The last murders the wand performed," Albus agreed, nodding. "In reverse order. More would have appeared, of course, had you maintained the connection. Very well, Harry, these echoes, and these shadows… what did they do?"

Harry described how the figures that had emerged from the wand had prowled the edges of the golden web, how Voldemort had seemed to fear them, how the shadow of Harry's father had told him what to do, how Cedric's had made its final request.

At this point, Harry found he could not continue. He looked around at Sirius and saw that he had his face in his hands. Harry suddenly became aware that Fawkes had left his knee. The Phoenix had fluttered to the floor. It was resting its beautiful head against Harry's injured leg, and thick, pearly tears were falling from its eyes onto the wound left by the spider. The pain vanished. The skin mended. His leg was repaired.

"I will say it again," Albus intoned as the phoenix rose into the air and resettled itself upon the perch on the desk. "You have shown bravery beyond anything I could have expected of you tonight, Harry. You have shown bravery equal to those who died fighting Voldemort at the height of his powers." A pity that the Council is too stuck in their ways to understand the meaning of your actions. "You have shouldered a grown wizard's burden and found yourself equal to it —and you have now given us all that we have a right to expect. You will come with me to the hospital wing. I do not want you returning to the dormitory tonight. A Sleeping Potion, and some peace… Sirius, would you like to stay with him?"

Sirius nodded and stood up. He transformed back into the great black dog and walked with Albus and Harry out of the office, accompanying them down a flight of stairs to the hospital wing.

A day later, Albus found himself seated in his office with Fawkes singing a song. The entire course of events over the past twenty-four hours had been highly illuminating and enlightening.

He had played a rather high-risk game this year. It had taken every ounce of his legendary control to allow the imposter to roam around Hogwarts and teach the students; not to mention get close to Harry. In those moments when Junior was alone with Harry, Albus did everything he could to prevent himself from blasting the Death Eater to pieces.

Cornelius had been a completely useless entity this year and had ensured that news of Voldemort's resurrection would not get out into the open by killing Junior with a dementor. Lucius was definitely involved in the matter as Cornelius was far too spineless to take such a decision on his own terms.

Junior's death was both a blessing and a curse. It would hide Albus' manipulations in the matter but the danger of not letting the populace realize the Dark Lord has far outweighed the gain.

I should have placed wards around Junior's room.

Voldemort would work in the shadows until he was once again at the height of his magical ability. Based on his research, Albus knew that his new body would take several months to reach full maturity, time that Voldemort would use to consolidate his hold on the Ministry through his supporters while hiring dark creatures, washed out witches and wizards and mercenaries to bolster his army.

Albus did feel quite a twinge of guilt over the matter but quickly squelched. As much as he had hated becoming an accomplice in Voldemort's resurrection, it had been a necessary evil, since there were no other means of getting the Horcrux removed from the boy.

What did he care if several nameless and faceless people died, if Harry Potter could live his life, for once? At the very least, he owed the boy that much.

June 27, 1995.

"Conflagratius calamitatis!"

A shaft of dazzling bright red light shot out of the tip of the Elder wand, tore through the wards and struck the walls of the Flamel Mansion with such force that the land surrounding the mansion shook for several hundred meters.

The shaft had struck the light blue walls of the second floor and exploded inwards, tearing through the powerful protections cast on the stones. The bright red flames that erupted began to swim across the entire floor as the windows shattered from the heat.

In a matter of a few minutes, the entire mansion burning in a mixture of green and ruby flames as many of the ingredients stores in the basement that mixed with the magical fire.

Albus Dumbledore was not worried about the couple who resided within. Contrary to popular belief, the Flamels did not reside in a mansion warded above and beyond the most secure buildings of the ICW. Rather, they had several houses around the world which they lived depending on their fancy. Even the well-known mansion of the Flamels, the one that he had just burned down, was surrounded by wards strong enough to give them a few moments to quickly escape. He had once questioned his former mentors on the matter when Nicholas answered, "If someone is either foolish, brave or powerful enough to attack your position with full knowledge of the defenses, it would not do to be cibles faciles, a sitting duck. Much better to let your enemy think they have won and stabbed them in the back before they realize what has occurred."

The two shadows walked towards him still proved that his mentors had not changed their mind regarding defense, their fierce aura radiating brightly. While it was true that both Flamels were weaker in terms of power compared to himself, a measure of raw strength did not truly matter when faced with the experience and knowledge of the legendary Flamels.

"Albus," The stern voice of Nicholas Flamel floated up to him, as his old eyes saw the figures fade and then appear before him.

Just as expected, both of them were without a scratch, though the shock of the unexpected attack had shaken them to some extent, though Albus believed it was the identity of the man who had just assaulted their home.

"Nicholas," Albus whispered, his eyes trained on the couple before him. Nicholas had an odd expression on his face. Perenelle however, looked positively murderous.

"What is the meaning of this, Albus Dumbledore?" Nicholas replied with nary an inflection in his voice. Albus recognized it as his mentor's 'Give me the answer I seek or you rot in hell' voice.

"A rather small… example of what is to come, should you and your… wife continue down the path you are walking."

Perenelle stayed deadly silent, staring at him with cold daggers of rage.

"What… are you insinuating?" Nicholas questioned his former protégé.

"The Goblet of Fire. It chose Harry Potter as the fourth contestant." Albus answered, "And contrary to what everyone thinks, the Goblet isn't a souvenir that any wannabe Dark Lord can confound at a moment's notice."

"I fail to see your point, Albus," Nicholas replied, a confused expression lingering on his face.

Albus's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Over a year ago, Harry Potter is targeted by an entire horde of dementors; not once, not twice, but thrice through the course of a single year. Last Halloween, his name is selected by the Goblet for a tournament that only those-of-age could enter. Ring any bells?"

Nicholas opened his mouth, but Perenelle beat him to it. "And what of it?" She sneered. "The boy is an abomination, and was supposed to be destroyed in the first place."

Nicholas glanced at his wife sharply but said nothing.

"So you accept that you did it." Albus eyed her dangerously. "And now, your attempt to kill the boy has aided the resurrection of Voldemort."

Perenelle Flamel could not hold her emotions in check upon hearing the news. Her eyes widened and lips parted in shock at the words.

"Resurrected?" Nicholas whispered, a curious look in his eyes. "But would it not-"

Albus interrupted his mentor with carefully chosen words. "Fortunately, he has chosen to build his new physical form using the bone of his father, the flesh of his servant and the blood of his enemy, Harry Potter." He gestured towards Perenelle. "I believe Lady Flamel would understand the significance."

Perenelle clenched her fingers and stared at Albus with narrowed eyes in silence as Nicholas glanced towards her

Albus scowled at her refusal to comment on the matter. He knew she knew the possible results but her adamant refusal to acknowledge the fact drove him mad. "The ritual has ensured that Harry is now anchored to life. Soon, he shall be free of the Horcrux forever. Perhaps then, you will stop looking at him like the arrival of the apocalypse."

"You are still… obstinate over your decision to protect the boy, Albus Dumbledore?" Perenelle asked.

"We would not be having this discussion otherwise, Lady Flamel," Albus replied coolly. "With the return of Voldemort, there are far too many matters that require my attention, the safety of Harry being my number one priority. I have people to meet, forces to assemble and treaties to enforce."

"I suggest you give up your fascination for Le Grand Guignol and leave Harry Potter alone. He is a teenager who has just witnessed the death of his fellow competitor and the return of the monster responsible for the death of his parents. Do not touch him."

Perenelle arched an eyebrow. "Is that all, or do you have any more… demonstrations as to what would happen should anyone cross the great Albus Dumbledore?"

Albus smiled. "Nothing like that, my lady Flamel. This… inferno is merely a… representation of what you and your Council shall heap upon the world should you continue down your path."

Perenelle observed him silently.

"Noted." She spoke at last. "You may leave."

August 13, 1995.

Albus stood in front of the fireplace in his office, staring at the green flames and the man visible in it. "Do you understand what I need, Fabian?"

"I… do." Fabian seemed hesitant for a while before he nodded. "However," he tilted his head slightly, "I have a… query."

"Go ahead."

"This… Potter boy... he has been attacked by Dementors, previously, right?"

Dumbledore nodded gravely. "Third year, yes."

"And they repeatedly made an attempt on him, and only him, during the course of that year?"


Fabian made a mental note of that statement. "You should know, Professor, that ever since her appointment, Dolores Umbridge has been in charge of any and all matters related to the security of the realm that passes through the Minister's office. It appears that she has been taking an extreme interest in foreign arrivals and departures and has been sending the ICW requests regarding the settlements of Vampires and Werewolves."

Albus sighed. It looked like Voldemort was moving far too quickly. During the last war, Voldemort had not chosen to use the creatures of the dark until the latter half of the war. "I shall have to step up my efforts."

Fabian nodded. "And there have been rumors about the Warden's family being stalked by certain… entities."

Albus shook his head. Problems always arrived at the most difficult of times. "Noted. How is Project Nova coming along?"

Fabian pursed his lips, considering what to say. "It has been… difficult. The Council agents have been strange… reluctant to talk about him, and the records in the Vaults of Fabulinus are currently out of our reach."

It seemed that Fate had dealt him a bad hand of cards. "Your personal thoughts on the matter?"

Fabian hesitated. "I do not believe the man is evil. He has saved a lot of lives over the years. Beyond the complaints of the ICW regarding his nonchalant display of defiance, he is not the threat people believe him to be. That said, I do perceive a sense of chaos in the events surrounding him. It all seems like one huge game but, according to those who know him, the man is simply a child in an adult's body. Best guess, he is either playing a long game that nobody can understand, or he is merely fond of pulling pranks on powerful organizations."

"Someone after your own heart then, Fabian?" Albus smiled in amusement.

Fabian did not deign to return the comment.

"Very well, carry on with your duties. I believe that, with Akingbade at the helm, things have been quite difficult."

An undecipherable expression resided on Fabian.

"Very well." With a sigh, Dumbledore shut off the Floo connection, as he returned back to his chair.

May 27, 1996.

"Harry… That is the plan which I wish to execute and outlined to the best of my ability. Do you have any questions about the strategy I just talked you through?"

Harry shook his head. Truth be told, his mind was still in a haze as he struggled to make sense of everything he was told and shown. There were entire pieces of the story he had barely understood and doubted he would any time in the near future. Frankly, it all sounded like one of those novels Hermione had forced on him after his third year.

But the sombre state of the Headmaster during the entire explanation removed any illusions he had regarding the truth and, for the first time, he started at Albus Dumbledore and saw neither the most powerful wizard of their era or the Headmaster of Hogwarts, but the man who had done his very best to ensure an orphaned child could live. He saw the man who had given up everything he had to give that child as normal and happy a life he possibly could.

Harry looked at Dumbledore and wondered if this was what his parents or grandparents would do for him if they could. The old wizard had accepted the full weight of his decisions and had lived their consequences. Sure, there were cases where Harry wished to throttle the man, especially in his treatment of Hermione as a test subject for a highly experimental and dangerous invention but he did understand the reasons. At least, he thought he did.

Harry would probably never forgive the man for all he did, but he did try to understand the reasons behind the decisions taken.

For the first time in his life, Harry felt far too light. He had shied away from the truth for so long that whenever the chance came by, he had done his very best to avoid it. He was afraid, afraid that the knowledge he gained would be outweighed by the sheer weight of responsibilities and expectations that would be placed on his shoulders.

What he had not expected was the feeling of utter relief upon learning the truth. There were no responsibilities heaped on his shoulders, no expectations placed on his existence. For once, Harry felt that he could do anything he wanted, be anything he wanted.

Of course, there was the pesky matter of the Council and their manipulations but he would deal with them in time.

And the voice of his teacher brought Harry back to reality.

Albus Dumbledore stood at his fullest height, his turquoise robes glittering in the light of the late evening sun. "Understand this, Harry… this is not something that can be undone. Once you choose to walk this path, there is no going back. If there is even the slightest hesitation in your thoughts… if you are unsure… even a moment of indecision can bring unfathomed harm to your person. Once you proceed, you shall no longer be Harry Potter."

Sky blue eyes glinted with hints of madness as Albus gave Harry a pointed look, turned towards the table, picked up an oddly angled box the size of his palm and held it towards Harry. "As your magical guardian, I took the initiative of retrieving this item from your Family vault from Gringotts." His gaze briefly switched to the box and returned to Harry. He wet his lips and spoke in a grave tone, "Harry Potter shall not remain any longer. From this day forth, you shall be known as Harry Peverell."


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