Thank you for following this story. This is the last chapter. Enjoy.
Curses really don't play well together
Snape stood inside the meeting room where the Death Eaters had been called by Voldemort. He knew that the snake needed to die for the monster that had taken Lily from him to be mortal once more. Bill Weasley had been the one to clue him into the secret how Voldemort had survived the rebounding killing curse. He had also given him several options of how to kill the snake for good and leave Voldemort fully open to the clash of the curse of the unicorn blood and the one from the horcruxes. Snape was much more in favour of doing things this way than basing their whole hope on Potter, no matter how much of a sneaky and intelligent boy he had proven to be.
The news about his acing sixteen OWLs and fifteen NEWTs had spread via the Daily Prophet, how could it not when it concerned the public's golden boy? He didn't think the boy was anything special though, despite his results. While even he wouldn't claim that Potter had cheated, as he knew how thorough the DME was with the enchanted anti-cheating equipment for the exams and making sure the students couldn't look things up while being on the loo, he still wouldn't admit that Potter might be up to the task put before him. Not to mention that he would much rather have revenge against Lily's murderer on his own than letting Potter get the glory again.
It might get him killed, which he didn't want, but if it happened, he would be free of the cursed life he led ever since he pushed Lily away over the torment from Potter senior and his friends. In his opinion, the brat had done him a favour, should he survive this. He would be gone from the castle and wouldn't torment him with his looks. So much like his cursed father.
Observing closely, he could see that the body of the man he had to call master wasn't looking well. Bill Weasley had been right in his estimation about the two curses running havoc against each other. Without the soul leech, he really had wanted to deck the headmaster after hearing what exactly had been contained in the infamous scar, supplying him with Potter's untainted magic to balance the two curses, as Potter's soul hadn't sinned like the Dark Lord's, even if Snape was convinced that there was lots of material that the brat should have been punished for harshly, didn't happen anymore.
The body that was a construct of a magical ritual of doubtful power, after all, Pettigrew and a muggle had supplied parts of it, and to face it, Pettigrew was weak, was deteriorating with each passing day. Snape knew that the inner circle's personal healer had been called to see the Dark Lord, but of course he hadn't told them anything, but he looked worried. He then concentrated on the Dark Lord starting to speak.
"My loyal servants, we will soon strike in force to show the people of wizarding Britain who is the real power in the country. People will fear us again, we will remind them that the terror they experienced in the seventies hasn't died a silent death, when they claimed that a baby could fully defeat me, the most powerful wizard alive. I read about the amusing results of Potter in the Daily Prophet, but even then, a NEWT level teenager, one that hasn't had his fourth stabilising boost of magic against Lord Voldemort?" He chuckled, and some Death Eaters fell in.
"The light side is deluding itself. Potter has only been lucky before. Some skill was there as well, otherwise the prophecy wouldn't have made any sense after all, but I have decades of experience and powerful rituals to make me stronger on my side. I defeated death, as I proved when I returned from the ghost-like existence that the ancient protective magic of Lily Potter sent me into. I am more powerful than ever before, as my plans worked out perfectly."
Snape knew that the Dark Lord was lying. His magic was getting weaker, but he wanted to hide that fact to both his followers and his enemies alike. Either side would be prone to get rid of him. It wasn't as if the dark side followed him out of devotion, except for nutcases like Bellatrix, but for the promise of power. Should the Dark Lord not be up to the task, they would attempt getting to their goals in other ways. He expected some infighting over the remaining cake, once the Dark Lord was taken out by the battling curses. But, and here it was very probable that Amelia Bones would succeed, they would have a hard time in gaining any kind of powerful positions or actual power in the country. Bones, contrary to many other politicians, couldn't be bought, and Scrimgeour, no matter if his political ambitions were greater than hers, couldn't either.
Snape was just glad that Dumbledore's protection was keeping him safe at Hogwarts. He wouldn't want to get into their line of targets. They would take out the trash this time around, which they had been blocked from in the early eighties, when they had still been aurors. As he was known to be Dumbledore's spy, he could watch from the side-lines and take as much as he could from the results. He wasn't a Slytherin for nothing after all. He continued listening to the supposed motivational speech of the shadow of a man that would soon be a bad memory. He only needed to get that snake and then the bastard should be mortal again.
Sirius sat at the meeting of the Order, listening to a report from Tonks about the recruitment of aurors being increased, now that it wasn't blocked by the Minister's office anymore, when Snape stumbled into the meeting, bleeding from several deep wounds.
"Severus, what happened?" Dumbledore exclaimed.
"The snake is dead," Snape brought out and collapsed on the floor.
Molly Weasley and Emmaline Vance, the two with the greatest knowledge of healing, were at his side immediately and started casting spells, but the wounds didn't want to close.
"The wounds are cursed!" Molly declared terrified, "I don't know what kind of curse and there also seems to be poison at work."
"Could he have been bitten by the snake, like I was, when it attacked me at the entrance of the DOM?" Arthur Weasley asked.
"Very much possible. That means the wounds will continue bleeding and refuse to be closed. Shit, I need blood replenishing potion at once," Emmeline shouted, which had Fred Weasley run out of the room.
Fred and George had been accepted as members of the Order of the Phoenix after graduating from Hogwarts. They had started their joke shop, even if Molly wasn't very happy about it. At least, it seemed that the shop was going to be a success, as they had several branches of products that were very much top-sellers, like their defence line, which they accredited to being made possible thanks to Harry's teaching.
Fred returned about two minutes after leaving with a box full of different kinds of potions.
"I brought George and my emergency stock of potions. This is the blood-replenishing potion," Fred thrust the vial into Emmeline's hand.
She spelled it into Severus stomach, which bought them some time, but the wounds refused to be closed. They battled for his life for an hour, but then they lost, as the man lost his blood faster than any potion could restore it. The Order members were sombre at the death of one of their own.
"This is a huge loss for the light," Dumbledore stated after a while, "Severus will be remembered for his great sacrifice, which brought us the final step closer to the ultimate defeat of Voldemort."
"True," Bill Weasley agreed, "We can only hope that it was the last one."
"What are you talking about?" Molly demanded to know, shocked by the death she had witnessed just now.
"Voldemort used very dark magic to prevent his death, Molly. I kept the information limited to the group tasked with destroying the parts that anchored the dark magic to this plain of existence, to prevent that the enemy found out what we were doing, as it could have ruined all our chances of succeeding," Dumbledore explained, "I won't tell you who was involved, but, if we are right, the snake should have been the last anchor of the magic."
"And, if it was the last anchor," Bill continued, "The two battling curses he has on his soul will destroy his body without any of us having to risk our lives in the process. Once he is gone, we still have to take out the Death Eaters, to prevent that they can get away with flimsy apologies again. Thankfully, we have Amelia Bones at the head of the DMLE now, and she is very much in favour of dosing them all with veritaserum to get the full truth out of them."
"You know about this, Bill?" Molly asked annoyed.
"I was consulted for my knowledge of curses and curse-breaking, Mum. And I promised to not tell anybody outside of the team. This would ensure that nothing got into the wrong hands," Bill replied.
"So, we just wait now?" Tonks asked frowning.
"No, we continue countering the actions of the dark side," Sirius objected, "We know the names of many Death Eaters and our goal always has to be to bring them all to justice, get them locked away for life at Azkaban. If Voldemort, as we suspect, is now getting weaker with each day, they will have to act without him present. Still, they are very dangerous in their own right. Our best chance will be to set up ambushes where we can and possibly kidnap them when we have a chance. It would be a good idea to also use veritaserum on each of them to find out the names of all the other Death Eaters they know, next to plans that they have been told about. If we act now, when they have only just begun to act openly, we can prevent that this war will get out of control. They have already caused a lot of damage and death, but we can still stop them from taking over."
"Sirius is right," Remus confirmed, "We need to act. But this poses another problem. Didn't you plan to let Severus take over DADA at Hogwarts, to get rid of Umbridge, Albus?"
"I did," Albus sighed, "I have managed to get Horace Slughorn to agree to come back to teach Potions, which should be a great advantage for our students, not to mention that he can probably confirm some information I have been trying to collect to win this war. While he wasn't too happy that Harry wouldn't be at the school anymore after reading about it in the Prophet, the safety aspect of the school convinced him to still do it. This will be a problem, as the DADA post is ridiculously hard to fill."
"Well, I have my trial in four days. It is a formality to get me cleared of all charges," Sirius commented, seeing his chance to easily get the position he wanted.
He had sneaked out of Grimmauld Place regularly to use the room to the fullest advantage, under the cover of being out to prepare more safe houses and collecting information. He was ready for the DADA mastery tests, if he got about one more month of practice in, which came down to about five days in real time. He had remembered much more than he had thought he would during the time he had already been in the Room of Requirement, probably because he hadn't been idle when he was at Grimmauld Place.
"Once I am cleared, I can take over as teacher for DADA. We need to ensure that a competent teacher is present at Hogwarts next year. I can take most of Remus' teaching plans from the year he taught there and go from that point on. That way the Ministry can't use the still active law that Fudge got passed last summer to send another idiot to teach. And, if everything goes well, I can even do it as a master of the subject. I have been working on the material while I couldn't leave the house, as I had nothing better to do," He explained his level away, "The next mastery exams are in September, and if you, Albus, sponsor my entrance, as you have masteries in Transfiguration and Alchemy yourself, then we could take away any arguments of nay-sayers."
"That is a great idea, Sirius," McGonagall commented, "And you are right, you only need sponsorship of a master, not of a master of the subject you want to test in, to be accepted for the tests. As far as I know, the test will be held in the middle of September, thus, if the trial doesn't take longer than normal, meaning one day, you could hand in your application for the test the same day, and would be within the one-month that you need to apply before the test takes place."
"I agree. You would do a proper job at teaching the students DADA. You were always one of our best fighters in the first war," Moody nodded, "Even if Voldemort really dies, as you said, the Death Eaters are still problems and the students can't be easy prey for them. Many of them were nearly as bad as Voldemort during the first war."
"Thank you for the offer, Sirius. Once the trial business is over, we will proceed that way. It will certainly leave me more time to work on other things. I have to admit, it gets tedious having to find a new teacher for the same subject year after year," Dumbledore sighed, "Then all that's left to do is giving poor Severus an appropriate funeral. He deserved that much."
"He does," Kingsley agreed, "I didn't see eye-to-eye with him on many things, but he did risk his life to help our side. This is the least we can do after he died for our cause."
The others nodded solemnly. Not many had actually liked the unpleasant man, but they respected what he did to help their side win against Voldemort.
Harry listened to Sirius telling him about Snape dying during the most recent meeting of the Order.
"I see. I can't say I will grieve for him. Too much happened for that. I am sad that he died, as much as I would be sad for the death of any person, but I can't say I will miss him," Harry commented when Sirius was finished.
"Neither will I. I know he risked a lot to spy on Voldemort, but I will never get over my negative feelings for him. Too much happened in our past for that, as you said," Sirius agreed, "But one good thing came from it, I got the DADA job, which Dumbledore had wanted to give to Snape, which he hadn't told anybody before that point in time. Seems he convinced Slughorn to come back to teach Potions."
"Good thing I'm far away from that mess. Congratulations on your job. How did the training go?"
"Very well. I remembered more things than I thought I would and with some last-minute repetition, I will be ready for the test in September. I estimate after five days in the room, I would be ready. I will hand in my application for the exams the same day I'm cleared by the Wizengamot. And, as Albus finally has an urgent need for my being free again, not to mention that Scrimgeour and Bones aren't as stubborn as Fudge was, it will happen," Sirius explained.
"True. He dragged his feet in the matter far too long. Well, I'm going to continue my travels. I have heard about a great magical water park when I last visited the closest magical shopping centre and I want to see if it's really that good," Harry told him.
"Sounds great. I wish you a lot of fun."
"Thank you. I'll call you in at most two weeks, if you don't call earlier."
"That's okay. You're not a small child that needs constant supervision after all. I just want to make sure that you are okay during your travels."
Harry smiled. That was the great part about his godfather. He gave him the freedom he craved, but was there as backup, should he need him. He only wanted to be kept in the loop, outside of Harry's exact location that was, to know that he was okay. Harry could easily live with that. They said their goodbyes and turned the mirrors off.
Voldemort was seething. He had been hoodwinked by Snape of all people. But the traitor got what he had coming. He had found out from Wormtail, who he had sent out to spy for him, that Snape had been reported dead by Dumbledore. The reason of death was declared poisoning and him not getting to a healer fast enough. Well, it was poisoning from his dear Nagini, who the traitor had managed to kill, and himself showing his fury at the death of his familiar, not to mention the destruction of his horcrux. He didn't think that Snape would have figured it out, but thanks to Lucius' idiocy, Dumbledore might have managed to work things out. Lucius had used the diary in 1992/93 to have the Chamber of Secrets opened again.
He had shown the man exactly what happened if you failed to follow Lord Voldemort's orders. His son would pay the price for Lucius' arrogance and disobedience. Oh, it would be deliciously slow torture for the man. But Snape's treason cost them their best Potions Master. It was a pity that Snape had managed to get away far enough to activate an emergency portkey, undoubtedly charmed by Dumbledore, as it had enough power to get through the outer edge of the anti-portkey wards. Only Dumbledore could make portkeys like that.
Voldemort doubted that Dumbledore would find out how far he had gone on his path to immortality. He probably had deducted that he had three horcruxes, which was a powerful magical number. And, going by that theory, he would have found one other horcrux, if he risked having Snape attack Nagini. Even if Voldemort had to admit, if not for his mastery of Legilimency, he would never have seen the full plan before it was too late. Snape had imperiused a low-ranked Death Eater to do the deed for him. The man was to hit Nagini with a killing curse and would undoubtedly be killed for his action.
The problem was, Nagini, as his horcrux, had some of his abilities as well, and detected the deception, attacking the true traitor. She had bitten him twice, before Snape managed to cut off her head with his personal dark cutting curse. That was enough to kill even her. But Voldemort, who had seen everything through Nagini's eyes, had retaliated immediately, using his ability to apparate inside the wards he had powered, to curse the man while he was trying to get out of the anti-apparition and anti-portkey wards. A shame that it somewhat worked.
He wondered which horcrux could have become a target of Dumbledore. He doubted it was the locket in the cave with the inferi. That place wasn't known to anybody but him. Nobody knew that he had explored his powers by torturing some other orphans from his orphanage there. He had never spoken to anybody about that. No, the locket was one of his safest horcruxes. The diadem of Ravenclaw was also safe. Nobody but him had ever found that special room. Even if some students might have come across other manifestations of it, they wouldn't have realised its true potential. Only he had done that.
Bellatrix's vault was also safe. Dumbledore had no way to get in there, and Bellatrix had assured him that nobody but her and Rudolphus had access to it. And they were among his most loyal, refusing to deny their loyalty to him, rather choosing to go to Azkaban, when they failed to gain the information about his whereabouts from the Longbottoms. And nobody knew that he had entrusted the cup to Bellatrix, but himself and her. And she had sworn to never talk about the honour bestowed onto her. No, the cup couldn't be found.
But Dumbledore knew his middle name. It was very much possible that he had made the connection to the Gaunts. And he was old enough to have known about Marvolo Gaunt. Not to mention that there were public files about all wizarding families of the country at Hogwarts. It was how he had found out about his heritage after all. The ring was probably the other horcrux that Dumbledore had found out about. He would have to check if the ring was destroyed. Well, the ring also had a very nasty curse, one that not even he would be able to survive, should it latch onto him. Should Dumbledore find the ring, there was a high possibility of him dying from that. That would be a great development.
But before he trusted the trap, he would rather check and secure the ring, should Dumbledore still be in the dark. If only he wasn't suffering from whatever problem his body had. This had started shortly after the breakout of Azkaban. He suspected that some of the magic at the prison, which was caused by the centuries of being exposed to dementors, had been harmful to his new body. He didn't know if Pettigrew had messed up some part of the ritual, even if the memory he had forced the rat animagus to give up didn't show any sign of it, or if the components were simply too weak to stand up to the magic he used up to free his loyal followers.
No matter what, he needed a solution and he needed it fast. This felt similar to the echo he had felt when he had possessed Quirrell, when he had tried to gain the Philosopher's Stone. His body had also deteriorated fast. Perhaps he could buy himself some time with another dose of unicorn blood. That had worked once already after all. He would just have to see where to find unicorns, as the ones at Hogwarts would be hard to reach, as Dumbledore had increased security around the castle.
Dumbledore listened to the report of Firenze the Centaur, who had come as an ambassador of his herd. There had been an attempt to capture a unicorn by a group of dark wizards, but they had barely managed to drive them away and save the unicorn. Dumbledore was alarmed, this was way too similar to how Voldemort had used unicorn blood to keep alive in 1991/92, when he had possessed Quirrell. The question was, was his body already failing him this badly to resort to this drastic measure? It seemed like it, and it only enraged the centaurs more, who were already ready to go to war over the forest, as the Ministry under Fudge had reduced their territory greatly. This needed to be handled very carefully. He couldn't afford violent centaurs close to the school.
"Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Firenze. I will tell you what I know. Currently, Lord Voldemort's body is battling two curses clashing and fighting for dominance. Due to the fact that he forced the former Professor Quirrell to drink unicorn blood to keep his deteriorating body from dying until he could gain the Philosopher's Stone from the castle, back in the schoolyear of 1991/92, his soul was placed under the curse that ingesting unicorn blood brings, as you know," Dumbledore explained and Firenze nodded, "Next to that curse, he also placed a horrible curse on himself by his dark magic rituals that he performed to achieve immortality. Due to the connection that he had with Harry Potter being cut off, for the protection of the boy, I can't reveal more here, but the cause for the pain young Harry felt whenever Voldemort was near him was eliminated without harm to the boy, he can't pull any untainted magic to himself.
"Curse-breaker Bill Weasley has predicted that this would happen, we just didn't expect him to again try to resort to drinking unicorn blood. I will immediately adjust the wards of Hogwarts to expand farther, about halfway into the forest. If you could relocate the unicorns into that area, they would be safe from further harm. It is a sacred duty of Hogwarts to prevent anything bad happening to those pure creatures."
"I see," Firenze commented, looking up to the stars, "Mars is bright. That will continue, but it's brightness can be dimmed if the right constellation appears on time."
Firenze, like all centaurs, gave his wisdom in astrologic riddles. Dumbledore did know enough to understand that the war wasn't over yet, but that there was a chance to end it, if things went the right way.
"My herd will bring the unicorns to the protected part, but you need to ensure that the spiders don't interfere, as their nets are located too close to the school to not interfere with the places where the unicorns go, and they wouldn't hesitate to take the unicorn foals, should they get too close to the nets," Firenze warned.
"I will have Hagrid take care of that," Dumbledore promised, knowing that it was too dangerous to leave the stupid acromantula colony that the half giant had allowed to be created stay like that.
He should have interfered earlier, but he didn't really see a reason for it. Well, If Hagrid didn't manage, he could take care of some of those spiders easily and harvest them for valuable ingredients. Hagrid didn't even need to know about it, until it was too late. But he truly couldn't afford to anger the centaurs more. While the forest was forbidden for the students to enter, Hagrid and previously Severus had always gone in there to gather potion ingredients and other things that the school used. If the centaurs fully closed the forest off to humans, that would come to bite them. Thankfully, he had always cultivated a good relationship with the centaur herd and could mitigate the damage that the Ministry had caused with their stupidity. It might even be possible to reason with Rufus Scrimgeour about taking the restrictions against the centaurs back. It wasn't as if anybody outside of the school went into the forest willingly after all, and they had always managed to arrange something with the centaurs.
At least he now knew that the plan was working, and Voldemort was getting weaker. Now they could only hope that the snake had really been his last horcrux, because then he would finally die when his body gave out. The thing he was wondering was how the prophecy played into this scenario. After all, it had said that Voldemort had to die by Harry's hand, and the reason why he was currently dying wasn't that. It was his horcruxes being found by a team from the Order and being destroyed expertly, next to losing the connection from the soul leech. He truly had to think more about this.
For the next two months, the Order of the Phoenix worked together with the Ministry of Magic, as Amelia Bones was merciless in persecuting Death Eaters, with the full backing of the Minister. No more bribery kept the guilty out of Azkaban and no more lies were accepted as truth in front of the Wizengamot. It might have something to do with Madam Bones performing the biggest spring cleaning in the history of the Ministry of Magic before she even got started on arresting people. She cleaned house without reprieve and the results quickly showed.
While the Death Eaters tried to bring their magical world back onto its knees with terror, they were countered quite efficiently. After Kingsley Shacklebolt had talked to Madam Bones, she had arranged with the new minister that every magical household would be equipped with emergency escape measures. Though, before that went ahead, she had her aurors checked, had the unspeakables checked and then all other vital departments of the Ministry, like the floo regulation office and the general magical law enforcement patrol. Too many had died by being cut off from escape by a malfunctioning floo in the first war, and Bones would be damned if she repeated the mistakes of the past.
Moody was a great help, as his eye could see through the fabric of the robes that normally hid the lower arms of witches and wizards. He could detect the dark mark on them, finding the most obvious spies, marked Death Eaters. After them, each department was checked for unmarked traitors and they were found, as none of them could battle veritaserum. It cut off a lot of power from Voldemort's side. The safe houses that Sirius had set up the previous year were now used as destinations for the portkeys. There were supplies for a month in each place, sufficient to feed about twenty people easily.
A short book on how to behave in case of an emergency that came with the portkeys was also given to every household, next to the Ministry setting up courses for anybody that wanted to participate, for very low fees, as they wanted as many people to participate as possible. These courses, after Madam Bones was told by her niece how efficient and well-working the type of teaching that Harry Potter had used the previous year at Hogwarts to undermine Umbridge had been, followed the concept of taking the practical approach in letting the witches and wizards of Great Britain learn how to properly defend themselves. It helped that Susan Bones, who had got an O in her DADA OWL thanks to Harry, demonstrated how good even a sixteen years old girl could be with the right training.
It certainly convinced many when she showed off her patronus, a fully corporeal fox. Most adults believed that the spell was very hard to learn. Well, it took determination and concentration, but all members of the DG had mastered the spell by the end of the year. It certainly helped with the problem of rogue dementors that had started breeding all over the country.
At Hogwarts, Sirius had been greeted by the students with mixed feelings. On the one hand, he had been seen as a deranged criminal for years since his escape, an image that was strengthened by Fudge, who blamed all kinds of problems that he couldn't deal with on Sirius. On the other hand, the Prophet had reported the gross miscarriage of justice against Sirius after the trial in August had been held. Most were outraged that a man had been sent to the dementors while being innocent, even without ever getting a trial, which every witch and wizard was entitled to. After the first few classes, they were convinced that it was a great development that brought him to Hogwarts though.
Sirius had talked to both Remus and Harry, who had taught for a year at the school respectively, even if Harry hadn't done so in official capacity and hadn't taught all students, only the majority, and had included their approach into his classes. He started the first-years with simple spells and how to use them efficiently, as they were just learning how to actively use their magic. Still, the more they practiced, the better they would become. As he knew that shield spells were too advanced for first years, he taught them how to dodge dangerous spells flying at them, by teaching them the paint ball spell, which was turned into a game of two groups trying to take out the other group.
It was very popular. The students playfully learned to aim their spells while on the move or stationary, and they learned to notice when spells were coming at them. The second years were taught shield spells and disarming spells, which were added into the game. He didn't want to risk having the youngest two years injured from his classes. Thus, harmless spells. The curriculum for the higher years was more intense. He taught the third-years how to deal with all kinds of magical creatures, like Remus had done, plus making sure that the basic five of defence, as he called it, meaning the disarming spell, the shield charm, the human revealing spell, the stunning spell and the tripping jinx were all mastered by them.
Fourth to seventh year included learning how to duel properly and higher-ranked spells. It was certainly very intense, but his homework was always based on practicing the spells covered in class. Some of the more academically orientated students, among them Hermione, complained that they couldn't show off their essay writing abilities, but Sirius didn't care. He was firmly convinced that essays never saved anybody in a battle, thus they weren't as important as spells being learned properly. To his dismay, he found out that Neville Longbottom had been forced to use Frank Longbottom's wand all this time, without any of the other teachers remedying that problem. NO wonder that he always had problems with his spell work. He had taken McGonagall to task for that, as she, as Neville's head of house, should have noticed that he didn't get a new and attuned wand when he started school.
A simple check of the student file told that much, and all heads of house were actually obliged to do so, as they had to apply the trace if a wand was inherited, to prevent that the Statute of Secrecy could be easily broken by a child that wanted to show off. Sirius took Neville to Ollivander the second day of school, as he had had the Gryffindors in DADA the first day, and Neville had finally got a proper wand that worked for him. His classmates had been shocked when his spells were suddenly much stronger than any of theirs. It had never been a problem of power for Neville, just that his wand didn't want to cooperate with him. Thanks to Harry, he had already learned a lot last year, but this year he shaped up to be one of the top students in DADA.
Sirius had also kept his promise to Harry to send him a vial with his memory of Hermione finding out about his perfect OWL and NEWT scores. The girl had been disbelieving and jealous. She couldn't understand how Harry had managed to deceive everybody at Hogwarts into believing that he was merely an average student. Ron had whined about Harry's performance and that he was now gone from the school. Especially as he hadn't managed to get his spot on the Quidditch team back, especially not as Cormac McLaggen had proven to be the superior keeper and Katie kept his arrogance in check. Cormac had played against Slytherin and Ravenclaw last year, after Ron had messed up horribly in the match against Hufflepuff, Angelina had also substituted the older boy in after about twenty minutes, as she had enough of Ron not managing to deal with the pressure of a match.
While the chasers had managed to keep the score fairly even, only once Ron was replaced, the team could concentrate on other things than intercepting the opposing chasers from their hoops, as Ron simply let too many quaffles through. Harry catching the snitch cemented the win for Gryffindor, but it had shown that Ron's nerves were detrimental for the whole team. Which meant, he was delegated to reserve keeper, with Cormac taking the starting spot from him. This year, Katie, knowing that Ron had performance issues all the time, had looked for a better reserve player and found a second-year, Alain Redstoke, whom she and Cormac, the only other returning player of the team, would train up during the year to take over for him next year.
They also looked for two new chasers and beaters, next to a seeker. It wasn't expected to have a big chance for the Quidditch Cup this year, as nearly the whole team had left the school last year, even if nobody had expected Harry's departure. Even if Fred and George considered it the best prank ever. It took some time to develop the blind understanding that the previous team had had.
Still, other houses had similar problems. They were going to fight to do well.
Sirius had passed his DADA mastery exams in the middle of September with great marks. They weren't perfect, but all in the range of what would be an Exceeds Expectations for OWL or NEWT students. Which meant, Sirius was now on the small list of masters in Great Britain. Hermione had to swallow her comments, as she hadn't considered Sirius that smart, as he had been a prankster in his youth at school. To now have it shoved into her face that pranksters like him could excel enough to achieve the coveted mastery of a subject didn't fit into her view of the world. Not to mention that Harry had told Sirius how she and Ron had spied on him on the orders of the headmaster, which meant Sirius wasn't very open to treating them any different than other students, no matter if Hermione had been greatly involved in his escape at the end of their third year.
And no matter who had asked, thanks to his occlumency and simply not knowing where Harry was, he didn't tell anything, not even what he might have deducted. In his opinion, a war should be fought by adults, not a boy that had recently turned sixteen. Training the magical youth to not be easy targets was important, but battles should be fought by aurors and other fully-qualified witches and wizards, not children. That was what their generation needed to get into their heads. Relying on one boy to save them again was the wrong way to go about things. No matter what Dumbledore might say, and what some woolly prophecy claimed.
Harry looked down from the head of the Statue of Liberty. He had travelled from Florida to New York, wanting to see many sights of the city. It was incredible what kind of things were out there, when you had the chance to travel where you wanted to go. He had made one stop at the building of MACUSA to get his apparition licence acknowledged. As he was sixteen, he had to do so, even if he had easily passed his test at the ICW branch in Berlin. It was great that the Room of Requirement allowed him to practice this highly useful skill. Apparating without a licence was too troublesome to risk.
While he had lost the trace, he had checked after getting his NEWT results, America had a different system that covered all witches and wizards under seventeen and registered their use of magic outside of Ilvermorny or Salem schools and if it was too close to any muggle settlements, they would immediately get visits from aurors. The separation of magicals and non-mags, as they were called in America, instead of muggles, was much stricter than in Europe, as here it was forbidden to even be friends with muggles and reveal magic to them. Harry could somewhat understand the weariness of the American wizarding world, as they had only just escaped a catastrophe in the 1920's, when an obscurial had killed several muggles and exposed the existence of magic to them.
Only Newt Scamander's thunderbird spreading a mixture that allowed to obliviate a whole city through the rain had saved them. Harry didn't want to get on the bad side of MACUSA and thus obliged the few laws that concerned his visit to the country. He registered his magical signature, showed his NEWT results to prove that he was allowed to use magic outside of school, even if he wasn't seventeen yet, and proved that he could apparate without trouble. He was given a stamped note of approval, which he could show, should he be confronted by magical law enforcement. And nobody would tell anybody in Great Britain where he was, as it wasn't their business. Not even Dumbledore.
The old man might want to control Harry, but he had a hard time convincing anybody outside of Europe of the necessity. Especially America was notorious for not accommodating British politicians' requests without good reason. Well, Harry used his proper being registered now to travel around without problem. While his animagus form was great and allowed him to get away from a spot in a pinch easily, when apparition wasn't an option, there were wards that prevented it after all, but nearly nobody warded against animagi, it was more exhausting to travel that way, if he had to cover long distances.
With apparition, he could disappear from one spot and reappear at another, far away spot in seconds. That made travelling so much more comfortable. And he wanted to see as much of the world as he could fit into his free time. He would make time to revise before his mastery tests, but otherwise, he would enjoy himself as much as possible.
It was official, Voldemort was dead. It had taken about six months for his body to fall prey to the clashing curses, but all captured Death Eaters that had been present, had reported the same. He had been too weak to leave his bed for the last week or so and had then had his body fall apart in agony. The remaining Death Eaters had tried to escape, as they didn't think that they could win the war without their leader, but the DMLE had worked properly this time around. They had caught up to them and taken them into custody, often after big battles. It hadn't been easy, not by far, but they had by now captured about a third of the Death Eaters they knew about. It would take longer to get them all, but the ones that they had caught were now back at Azkaban, which wasn't under the oppression of the dementors anymore, as they had deserted.
Instead, the prisoners got a runic array tattooed onto their shoulders, which drained them of their magic, which was then stored in special crystals. Sirius had found the solution in a book the Room of Requirement supplied for him, when he asked for ways to prevent dangerous criminals escaping prison without dementors to guard them, or executing them, which wouldn't gain a majority vote by the Wizengamot anyway. It was an ancient way, before dementors had been used. Still, it worked very well, and prisoners like the Lestrange brothers, Bellatrix had been killed in the battle to capture them again, were now nothing better than squibs, which had them rage against their cell's bars. Still, they didn't pose a danger to the public anymore, which was all that counted.
The method was now used for all prisoners, as, once the crystal was broken, the magic would return. Meaning, those that had to stay certain periods of time at Azkaban, would get their magic back after they were done with their sentence. Like those that had supported the dark side from the background but hadn't committed the worst kind of crimes. Like spies, who normally were sent there for fifteen years before they were allowed to leave again, still under observation though.
This time around, the Ministry wouldn't repeat their mistakes of the past. Not after the thorough cleaning of the ranks that had been performed on orders of Amelia Bones. Thanks to martial law, she managed to get around obstacles that had previously prevented that everybody was forced to take veritaserum. No blood status helped those trying to escape the measure. They were questioned, they were convicted if they had committed crimes of any kind and they were sent to Azkaban for them. Those that had only done things like accepting bribes were fired and forced to pay fines. But Bones was determined to not give the rot another chance to suffocate the ability of the Ministry to actually act.
As a side effect, the Ministry had a lot of positions open. Many departments lost their heads and had to be replaced on short notice. Many that had applied for jobs in the years before, but had been rejected, got new chances to work for the Ministry. And, as the aurors had taken out the worst bigots, as they regularly supported the goals of Voldemort, the hiring policies didn't exclude muggleborns and halfbloods on principle now. Many that had the required qualifications in the past that were passed over for purebloods with worse marks in their NEWTs were now getting the jobs they had wanted before.
While it would take time for change to really sink in and the biased laws got abolished, it was a good start. The public was just glad that Voldemort hadn't attacked as often as he did during the seventies, but that was mainly due to him first acting from the shadows, and then the time he could still act being short. The public wasn't told what had exactly happened, as they might have done the stupid thing and claimed that Harry Potter was the main reason for the newest and permanent fall of Voldemort. Instead the official statement was that a team of specialists had worked on determining how Voldemort had managed to cheat death in 1981 and once they knew, they took the steps needed to undo that part.
Once that was done, he fell to his own stupidity. It was decided that it wouldn't harm anybody if they explained the curse of drinking unicorn blood again. It would serve as a lesson for dark witches and wizards everywhere to leave those pure creatures alone. Some people had found out that some unicorns had been slain in 1991 and 1992 in the Forbidden Forest, but the reason hadn't been announced. Now it was 'confirmed' that it had been Voldemort trying to regain a body even back then, but he had been chased away from the forest before he could succeed. Nobody was told about him possessing Quirrel.
And it wasn't hard to believe that with a magically created body, once his magic to keep him from dying was gone, the unicorn curse would mess up this body even faster than it would do with a normal body. That was all people were told, as nobody wanted to spread the information about horcruxes.
Demands of Harry being brought back from Dumbledore were ignored by Sirius, who repeatedly told the old man to leave his godson alone, as he had no reason to always want to control him. Voldemort was gone, his minions arrested and in prison and Harry was more than capable of looking after himself. Dumbledore didn't like being told no, but nobody would support his demands. He was asked to willingly step down from his positions, one after the other, when it became clear that his mind wasn't as clear as it needed to be for him to actually get the job done anymore. Many brushed it off as the exhaustion of the events of the past finally catching up to him. Nobody degraded him, but the common consensus about him was that he was simply too old by now, too worn out, to keep working like he did in the past. He had earned his retirement and through constant pressure, after three years, he had to give up the last position he held onto, that being headmaster of Hogwarts.
He was still invited to visit regularly and give some lectures about special parts of Transfiguration for advanced classes, but he left the spotlight.
Harry grinned at the examiners at the Magical Mastery Committee of MACUSA.
"You again?" asked the lead examiner annoyed.
"What can I say, I missed you?" asked Harry cheekily.
"You already have four masteries. How many more do you want? Isn't it getting boring to you?" threw the examiner back.
"Never," replied Harry, "But I'll be nice and give you a break. After the two I came for this time, I will not attend the next exams in six months. Perhaps the ones after that, but I haven't yet decided if I want to do more masteries. Though the idea of having seven of them is tempting."
"Which ones this time? You already took Defence Against the Dark Arts and Duelling one year ago and then added Charms and History of Magic six months ago," grumbled the man.
"This time I'm here for Transfiguration and Ancient Runes," declared Harry.
"And which one is the seventh you are thinking about on top of that?" the man wanted to know.
"Warding," answered Harry.
"At least that fits into the theme you have going on," sighed the man, "You know the drill, Mr Potter."
"That I do," nodded Harry and went to the next table to have his wand inspected, next to letting the healer perform diagnostic charms to prove he hadn't taken any potions or performed spells to cheat on the exams.
Harry had gained his first four masteries easily enough. He had decided to sit them in New York, where the main branch of MACUSA was located. They had a second one in Los Angeles, but he had liked the examiners here the first time, hence he came back. With apparition, it wasn't a chore after all. The master he had got to sponsor his first exams had been very happy to hear that he had gained the equivalent of Outstanding with Distinction for Defence and Outstanding for Duelling.
After that, he didn't need any more sponsors for his tests, which had at first surprised the examiners, but there were no rules forbidding it, thus he got his will and was tested the second time, and now the third time. The tests were exhausting, but so worth the effort. So far, his achievements hadn't been promoted outside of the United States, but it was only a matter of time until that happened. With his fifth and sixth masteries, he would bet that the news would swap over to Europe. He didn't care. Nobody could order him around anymore and he knew that most wouldn't try here.
He still hadn't taken up a job, he wanted to wait until he had the last masteries he wanted before thinking about it, and he was more than financially secure to ignore the things others passed on to him via Sirius, who still taught DADA at Hogwarts. To his godfather's surprise, he was actually a great teacher and his students loved him. Thanks to the curse breaking, he didn't even have to keep the amulet on all the time anymore and could enjoy his job until he felt it was enough, but so far, he didn't feel like that.
Harry wished him the best and they still talked at least every two weeks on the mirrors. Sirius kept Harry informed about what was going on in Great Britain and Harry had been very relieved when he heard that Voldemort was dead, and he was free of the shadow that had hung over his head all his life. Maybe, in a few years, he would go and visit his home country. But he felt great being out in the world and doing what he wanted, with no so-called responsible adult imprisoning him again. Harry hated being forced into a role he didn't support. And, as he was gleeful to point out to Sirius, he hadn't been needed to kill Voldemort, that had happened without him actively doing anything. There was no Boy-Who-Lived this time around, just a curse running its course, next to the right people destroying horcruxes before it happened.
The old man had been wrong and while Harry wanted to shout at him and rub it under his nose at the same time, he felt it was best to stay away until Dumbledore had got his head around the idea that he had been wrong about things. Though, even if he wouldn't know it, he would never see Dumbledore again, as the old man would die peacefully in his sleep before Harry ever returned to Great Britain. Hermione and Ron had tried to send him letters, but after the first one from Hermione, who berated him for his actions, he hadn't opened any of them ever again. He couldn't care less that Dumbledore's two spies felt slighted by him. They weren't his friends and he owed them nothing. He did send a pointed letter to each of them, telling them that he had known about their actions from early on and that they were through.
Now that he didn't need to play a role anymore to not be found out by the old bastard, he wouldn't do so. He never asked Sirius about them, and he only mentioned them in passing, like in that they had passed their NEWTs at Hogwarts, but that nobody there could beat his scores and wouldn't for a long time. Well, Harry would enjoy his life. He definitely deserved it and who knew? Perhaps some new adventures that he chose for himself to get into would come up. At least this time, he was properly prepared for anything that could cross his path.
The End (of this story :) )