Back to School
Next chapter for you guys :)
Of course, if you wish to read this in its entirety, it can be found on my website. See previous chapters for details on how to access that.
Also, it is exactly 5 years ago today that I published the very first chapter of Honour Thy Blood, my first every fanfiction offering.
I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you, those that are new to my works and those that have been there from the very beginning.
Without the support I receive from so many of you, I would not be typing this nor continuing to publish as I do.
For those that are interested, chapter 4 of my latest work, When the Roses Bloom Again, is now live on my website also.
Narcissa Malfoy was pensive. Her dreams notwithstanding, the past two days had seen a flurry of activity within her home. The Dark Lord's followers had been coming and going frequently as they searched for the mysterious Lord Peverell and Lucius, much to her amusement, was growing ever-more irritable when they failed to find the man.
It was quite the sight to see her husband lost and not knowing what to do, and this was the most he had been at home for several years.
He would claim that he was using the manor as a base to oversee the efforts to capture Lord Peverell, but Narcissa knew better.
Lucius was scared.
She had learned quickly at the start of their marriage that he was, beneath the veneer of cunning, a coward when it came to confronting those of superior ability.
In truth, people feared to oppose him because of the Malfoy influence, but they did not fear him as a man. Lucius had merely cultivated the beneficial relationships that meant he was all but untouchable, but when it came to men like Peverell who seemingly cared little for such things, Lucius was no threat.
And here he was, cowering in his home because he feared the man would come for him next.
The thought brought a smirk to the woman's lips, and she entered the parlour room he had commandeered for the past day or so under the guise of carrying out menial tasks.
Oddly, Lucius was listening to the radio as he paced back and forth in front of the fireplace, muttering under his breath.
"No luck in finding him then?" she questioned as she fluffed the pillows on the sofa.
"Does it look like we have found him?" Lucius snapped irritably.
"With your current demeanour, I suppose not," Narcissa replied.
Her husband scowled at her but said nothing, pausing as an unfamiliar voice blared from the wireless on the table.
"River here, and I bring you good news regarding the attack on the unnamed muggle street in London two nights ago."
Lucius growled as he stared malevolently at the device, his breathing quickening as the broadcast continued.
"The final body count is in, and I can confirm that twenty-three of You-Know-Who's idiots in masks have been killed. It took our agents some time to clarify this as, let's just say, their body parts were strewn around like offal in a butcher's shop."
The host laughed at his own quip, and two other snickers could be heard in the background.
"My Co-Host, Rapier, has more on this. Rapier?"
"Ah, River, it is a joyous occasion when we can deliver such news, and I have more. It has been reported that the so-called Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement is nowhere to be seen. Now, I would hope that such a man with long and luscious blonde hair would be leading from the front in locating the scallywag responsible for such a brilliant attack, but alas, I have it on good authority that he has not been able to peel his backside off the throne."
"A case of the browns?"
"I expect so, but I would hope that such a trivial thing would not keep our rat-faced enforcer from carrying out his duty. We of course, wish him well and a speedy recovery. This next song is dedicated to him."
A jaunty muggle tune about a Brown-eyed Girl started playing and Lucius finally lost his composure, the mockery proving too much for him to stomach. With a swift kick, the wireless was sent across the room in several pieces, and it no longer goaded him.
Narcissa fought the urge to smirk at the man as he turned his attention towards her.
"What are you still doing here?" he demanded.
"I need to water my plants," she answered as she drew her wand and did just that. "Twenty-three?" she prodded.
Lucius's nostrils flared as he nodded.
"Well, he is proving to be quite the thorn in the side," Narcissa commented. "Perhaps you should be out there looking for him. You are always pointing out just how incompetent those beneath you are."
Lucius's jaw clenched, his eyes narrowed at his wife, and for the first time since they had been married, Narcissa thought that he would strike her.
He didn't, choosing to storm from the room instead, but he instilled a feeling within her that she had never felt around him.
Lucius may be a coward, but there was something beneath the surface that was dangerous. Perhaps not to her or anyone that could fight back against him, but there was something troubling about the man.
Satisfied that she had riled him, she too took her leave and returned to her own rooms where he couldn't get to her if he tried.
He may be the lord of the manor, but she was still a Black and had long ago ensured her safety within her own home.
Still, she knew she should be above provoking him, though she could not help it. For years she had been stuck within these walls through a mixture of shame and concern for her safety.
There were those out there who opposed the Dark Lord and would not hesitate to harm her given that she was the wife of one of the man's most hated followers.
Not that Lucius would care to lift a finger to either aide or avenge her if that were to happen.
The two merely shared a home together. There had been no affection between them for many years and they had all but lived separate lives. In truth, she had come to despise her husband and had lost any respect she may have held for him once upon a time.
He had no redeeming qualities, was a coward and took joy in the misery of others. He was rather pathetic, and he had turned her son into a brasher version of himself.
She never envisioned that she would be disappointed in Draco, but she was, and not only that, she was disgusted by him.
She didn't care for muggles or mudbloods as such, but what he had done over the years sickened her and thinking of him only brought a sense of failure and sadness to the woman.
He had not visited her in almost three years and Narcissa had not even met his wife.
Both her husband and son filled her with the same feelings. Perhaps that was why the recent dreams she had played on her mind so much?
No, they would have regardless of her relationship with the Malfoys.
The dreams were so vivid, and only becoming more so the more she experienced them.
The night before last, she had dreamed of being in the Wizengamot chambers where Peverell was put on trial for killing Thomas Avery.
She had felt nervous as she watched him take the stand, had laughed as he had dressed down Minister Bagnold and had even been called to defend him.
She felt proud of the way she comported herself, had spoken of the truth of what she had witnessed at St Mungo's and had been filled with a sense of warmth as she conversed with the man.
So vivid was the dream that she could even remember his scent from when he only stood a foot or so away from her as they spoke. It had evoked the same stirring within her she had felt when she thought of him before, and being with him felt so familiar, though she knew it hadn't happened.
Or had it?
It was becoming difficult to differentiate between what was real and what wasn't. Narcissa knew she should be concerned by the lack of clarity given her families disposition towards madness, but she wasn't.
If this was what madness was, why did it feel so pleasant?
She shook her head as she took a seat in front of her vanity mirror.
It could only be madness or magic itself was teasing her of a life that was never meant to be.
Her thoughts shifted to the dream from the night prior and she deflated.
She had only ever been to one Quidditch outside of her years at Hogwarts and that had been the World Cup Final that Lucius had insisted she attend when Draco was just shy of fourteen-years-old.
The stadium had been enormous, and as one would expect from such a prestigious event, it had been grand.
The one she had attended during her dream was a far cry from this.
The stadium, if it could even be called that, had only enough seats for a few hundred spectators at most, but unlike the World Cup, she had enjoyed this experience.
Harry had been playing as a seeker for a newly founded team and Narcissa had questioned why she had been there.
What she remembered above all else, however, was the green and gold scarf she had purchased and kissing him on the cheek when the match had been concluded, the warmth still sending tingles through her when she pondered it.
She smiled despite herself, and her hands searched for the scarf around her neck, only to find it bare.
"None of it can be real," she muttered. "Can it?"
In search of the truth, she had even sent her elf to retrieve Quidditch records from the 1970s and when the Hemel Harriers played their first season, and again, there was no mention of Harry Peverell as there hadn't been in her notes or even in court proceedings carried out.
She had borrowed that tome from Lucius's study to consult but found no mention of such a trial for Harry either.
Were it not for his sudden appearance here that coincided with the onset of her dreams, she would be more inclined to dismiss it all as foolish. Even now, she knew she should be of that mind, but there was something that kept her clinging to the notion that it was all very real, even if all the evidence confirmed that it wasn't.
For some reason, unfathomable to herself, a part of her knew that it was and that very same part hoped that he would remember her too and come for her.
A foolish desire indeed but one that she could not rid herself of.
Hogwarts loomed over him in the distance, a fortress long thought to be impenetrable by the outside world. A castled that housed the future of wizarding Britain within its walls whilst they were educated by the best instructors the country had to offer.
To Harry, it had always been more than just a school, it had been his home. Now, however, it stood as a symbol of failure by those that refused to acknowledge the return of the Dark Lord and a symbol of his triumph.
Dumbledore had once said to him that all was not lost so long as Hogwarts remained untouched by those that wished those within harm. Much to Harry's disappointment and sadness, that had come to pass.
Within the walls now were Tom's people, ruling over the castle with undeniable cruelty and indoctrinating those charged under their care with their own delusions.
The thought alone sickened the Peverell lord, and he shook his head before entering Honeyduke's, the shop bereft of customers, and the large man behind the counter greeted him cautiously.
"What can I do for you?" he asked nervously.
Harry was not surprised by his countenance.
Trying to run a successful business in the current climate could not be easy and there was no telling the type of clientele he had to cater to just to make ends meet.
"I'm looking for a chocolate bar my father told me about," Harry began, careful to choose an item that would not be readily available on the shop floor. "It is a muggle one," he added in a whisper.
The man shook his head frantically, his jowls wobbling.
"I can assure you, sir, I do not stock such things."
"Oh, I will just have to go back to the muggle world for them then," Harry replied with a smile. "I thought I would just get them whilst I was in the village."
He turned to exit the shop but was stopped by the startled man.
"No wait," he all but pleaded. "Look, I don't have them, but I may be able to source them. It depends on who is asking."
"My name is Lord Peverell," Harry replied.
The man's eyes widened, and Harry knew he would cooperate.
"I see you listen to the wireless."
"Shh," the man whimpered, glancing out of the window of his shop. "If they find you here, they'll kill me."
"Then let us be frank. It is not chocolate that I am after nor is it your gold or anything you have in the shop," Harry assured him. "I want you to turn around, count to five and then I will be gone. If you do, you would have helped many people by doing next to nothing."
"You'll just go?" the man asked sceptically.
"And no one will know you were here?"
"Not unless you tell them."
The man appeared to be confused but nodded.
"Alright, just please don't kill me. I'm not one of them. I have a wife and a daughter…"
"If I believed you were one of them, you'd be dead already," Harry interjected.
The man swallowed deeply.
"Okay, I'm turning around," he announced, and as he did so, Harry vanished in a puff of smoke and appeared at the trapdoor in the basement.
"What the…? Where did he go?"
The man's muffled voice sounded from above and Harry shook his head as he pulled the hatch shut behind him.
As unwitting as it was, none would know the man helped him and it saved Harry the issue of triggering the wards of the shop. He wouldn't even hazard a guess at what would happen if he had done so.
Undoubtedly, the village would soon be swarming with Death Eaters or lackeys disguised as auros, and that was not an obstacle he wished to deal with, not until he retrieved the Horcrux at least.
Pushing thoughts of hypothetical consequences aside, he removed a battered piece of parchment from within his robes and tapped it with his wand.
"I solemnly swear that I am up to no good," he murmured.
As it always had, threads of ink began scrawling their way across the parchment and formed the customary welcome message of the Marauder's. It brought a smile to his lips, one that did not last as he took in the names of those within the grounds of Hogwarts.
"Wormtail," he seethed at seeing the dot of the man that betrayed his parents skirting around the grounds, likely in his rat form.
Before the night was out, Harry was determined to see to the end of the man, but he needed to deal with the Horcrux, first and foremost. It would not do to deviate from his intentions for the sake of vengeance.
That thought made him pause.
Had it been only a year or so ago that he found himself here in these circumstances, he would have forgone the purpose for which he came at the knowledge that the rat was here.
He would have neglected everything to confront the man, but if fate showed him any fortune tonight, they would happen upon one another, and Harry would take no small amount of glee from such a meeting.
Once more focusing on the task at hand, he carefully made his way through the tunnel, feeling for any magic that would trigger an announcement of his presence.
There was none, and as he reached the base of the statue of the one-eyed witch, he gave the map a cursory glance to ensure there was no one waiting for him on the other side.
"Dissendium," he whispered wincing at the sound of scraping stone as the entrance opened.
Although the map told him that no one was nearby, Harry still peered either side of the statue to be certain before stepping into the unlit third-floor corridor and closing the entrance behind him.
He was surprised that the passage had not been sealed. Did Pettigrew not remember it?
Harry would not be surprised if the man had forgotten. He was a buffoon at best, a liability if there ever was one. The rat's stupidity served him now, but he would get no gratitude. Nothing but a miserable death awaited him.
He quickly pressed himself flat to the wall as fast-approaching footsteps sounded and two men garbed in the red robes of the aurors rounded the corner with their wands lit and held aloft.
"I'm telling you, I heard something down here," one of them hissed.
The other shook his head.
"You're hearing things, Malcolm," he grumbled. "Come on, let's get back to the Great Hall. At least it's warm in there."
The one identified as Malcolm nodded, and offered a final glance down the length of the corridor before hurrying after his partner when he realised he was alone.
Harry breathed a sigh of relief and wasted no more time in heading towards the seventh floor. Now was not the time to be discovered.
It seemed that Fate was showing him some favour after all. As he made his way through the castle, he only needed to navigate his way around a pair of Slytherin prefects on patrol and they walked by him, none the wiser to his presence.
In only ten minutes, he found himself before the blank wall opposite the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy and he quickly passed across the breadth of it three times thinking of what he needed.
Entering the enormous and cluttered room, he summoned the three brothers.
"You know what to do," he said simply.
With a nod, the three figures vanished amongst the stacks of discarded items and Harry waited for them to return.
They did so only a few moments later with the diadem floating between them, all three eying it with disdain.
"I will handle it," harry assured them, and after offering him a bow, they vanished within the elder wand he had slid into his hand.
"Fiendfyre," he muttered.
The tiara was engulfed by the summoned flames and a defiant scream filled the room as it was reduced to ash.
Harry expected that he would feel a sense of relief with its destruction, but there was no elation. The soul pieces were little more than a means to an end, and that end was freeing his wife.
Only then would he allow himself to revel in the demise of the Voldemort that had haunted him his entire life here.
Checking the map once more to ensure none in the castle had been alerted by the screaming soul piece, his eyes trailed to the grounds where Pettigrew was still roaming, and then back to school where many others were undoubtedly making the life of the students here miserable.
He saw the dots of the Carrows in the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, of Walden MacNair in Minerva's office and Thomas Avery in the Dungeons.
He dared not think of what had happened to Hagrid and Slughorn. The latter had likely fled, but the half-giant would have remained until the bitter end. He would not willingly leave the students under the care of the monsters here.
If Harry were a hopeful man, he would think otherwise, but it was a forgone conclusion that Hagrid was dead.
Releasing a deep breath, he remembered his own stint as a professor, how the children here looked to the staff to keep them safe, to educate them, both of which they needed now more than ever.
He was no longer such, but he could not in good conscience allow what was happening here to continue, not when alleviating them of it could serve more than just to rid the castle of the scum that had infested it.
With a little pondering and a final, wishful look to Pettigrew on the map, he had formulated a plan, one that would certainly garner the attention of and anger the Dark Lord.
The thought brought a cruel smile to his lips. With a little luck, he could do what he intended, and if Pettigrew was not alerted, he would have his moment with him too.
Checking the map a final time, he left the room of hidden things and made his way towards the headmaster's office.
Despite Moody's thoughts on the man, Snape was the person he needed to speak with. If anyone knew of the castle's current defences, it would be the Former-Potions Professor who was in control of them.
If he did not comply or showed any sign of deception, Harry would kill the man and be no worse of than when he had arrived at Hogsmeade.
"If there is ever a time you need to let me in, it's now," he muttered to the gargoyle statue that stood vigil over the entrance to the office.
The construct remained motionless for a moment before it silently sprung aside, much to Harry's relief.
He did not wish for an altercation with the guardian not when there were those that deserved what was coming to them.
Nodding appreciatively, he ascended the stairs as Olin appeared on his shoulder, knowing Harry required his assistance.
Life within Hogwarts had always been rather dreary for Severus Snape. He had never envisioned becoming an educator, but Dumbledore had gotten his way with his machinations and Severus found himself in the man's grasp.
Despite his misgivings and impatience with the ineptitude of students, he had grown comfortable here and even came to respect the brilliance of his former employer. For all his quirks and incomprehensible turns of phrase, none could deny the man had been an exceptional wizard.
He was a master manipulator, but one who did so with the best of intentions.
Still, he was dead, and Severus no longer found himself in his debt, yet, he still had to endure the being here and the students that stayed some nine months out of the year. Along with this, he also had to tolerate the incompetent and outright cruel staff members the Dark Lord had appointed.
He couldn't be certain what was worse. They tested his patience equally as did poring over pile after pile of parchment that were each essential to the school being run effectively.
Not that it was, but it was easier for the man to pretend that if he did his job, then the place would not sink any lower than it had.
His lip curled at the thought.
Hogwarts was already at the lowest it could be. There was little funding coming in and the Dark Lord showed no signs of changing that. The staff that were here to teach had to make do with mediocre resources and not enough to go round.
They did not voice their complaints, however. They had learned to curb them some time ago.
Those that had initially were no longer here, and those that remained were trapped. Were they to attempt to flee, they would be hunted down by Greyback and his ilk.
There was no escape from Hogwarts and there was no way in without being detected.
If any unfortunate soul undertook such a foolish endeavour, they would not see the outside world again.
Just as he thought this, a gentle breeze brushed across his desk and Severus frowned.
There was no draft in this office. It was magically protected against such discomforts.
Before he could ponder the observation further, he felt himself hoisted out of his seat and he unleashed a yelp of surprise, though no sound was heard.
His ears rung and vision swam as a sharp blow collided with the side of his head and his eyes widened as he took in the vision of a boy, now a man, he thought long dead.
"Potter?" he gasped, though once again, his voice was not forthcoming.
The glare of those familiar eyes froze the headmaster, a glare he had been on the receiving end of only once.
Lily had been furious with him for the outburst in which he called her a mudblood, and the very same glare he gazed into now was the one she had given him.
After that, she had simply pretended that he did not exist, and Severus had carried the guilt for his angry retort ever since.
"Potter, I can't breathe," he gasped as the man's grip tightened around his throat.
"Good," was the cold reply he received. "Now, you will only speak to answer any questions I have. If you attempt to alert anyone, you will die slowly and painfully, understood?"
Severus nodded and sucked in a lungful of air as Potter relinquished the hold and relieved him of his wand.
"Sit," he instructed.
The headmaster did so, taking in the appearance of his former student.
There was no longer a slouch to him. He stood tall and proudly, though it was not with arrogance as his father had. This Potter was confident and strong.
Whatever he had been doing during the years of his absence had hardened him. There was none of the worry that was prevalent when Severus had looked upon him when he had attended the school.
This was a killer stood before him and Severus did not doubt the threat that had been given.
"What are the defences like?"
"Supposedly unbreachable," Severus answered.
"Clearly not," Harry replied. "What other measures have been put in place?"
"None," Snape assured him. "The Dark Lord believes this place to be firmly under his control. There are none within who would assist anyone on the outside."
"Do what I must, as I promised I would. The war is over, Potter. He has won."
Snape was a defeated man and he believed what he said.
"No, he hasn't," Harry denied. "He will be dead soon enough, but I will be taking the school back tonight. You can either die with the others or you can prove to be the man Dumbledore thought of you as, that I think you are. You risked your life to save me the night this place fell. You could have allowed me to be taken but you didn't. Why?"
"My reasons are my own. You can accept that or kill me. It will be worth it to see him gone."
Harry nodded at the candid reply.
He didn't truly expect the man to be forthcoming, but the sincerity was unmissable. Snape, despite how unpleasant he had been wanted the very same thing he did.
"How long can you keep him out of here?"
Severus released a deep breath.
"If he were to bring his entire force on us, a week at best, but likely less. Do not underestimate him, Potter. He is as resourceful, ruthless and powerful as they come."
"I know that better than any," Harry growled, "but everyone meets Death. My time isn't now."
Snape eyed him curiously and offered him a nod, believing the man before him.
"Is there a way to get the students out if the castle is locked down?" Harry pressed.
"It is possible," Snape mused aloud. "I will need to get a message to Aberforth."
"Then you should do that," Harry advised. "Within the hour, the Death Eaters here will be dead. How long before Voldemort knows?"
Severus winced at the moniker.
"Sooner than you would like. There are spies everywhere. Some students are marked also."
"Then there is no time to waste," Harry replied with a grin. "Send your message, Snape, but send for Tom at your own risk. I would sooner burn the castle to the ground than allow him to keep it."
With his parting words given, Potter was gone, and a slight smirk tugged at Severus's lips.
He had long ago lost hope that any day such as this would come, but now that it was here and Potter of all people had arrived, he once more felt a twinge of hope that he could atone for what he had done as a foolish boy.
Retrieving his wand that Potter had left on the desk, he sent the message to Aberforth Dumbledore before switching his attention to the wards.
"And so it ends," he muttered, readying himself to activate them when the moment arrived to do so.
Having checked the map to ensure he knew where best to start, Harry pocketed it and headed towards the office that had once belonged to Minerva McGonagall.
MacNair was in there alone and there was no other nearby that could assist him.
The halls seemed to only be patrolled by the prefects at this time of night, and Harry could use that to his advantage. Those posing as Professors were in their rooms with the only one being occupied by more than person, that being the very one he had been given when he was a Professor.
The Carrows occupied it now and were seemingly sharing the only bed provided.
Pushing the thoughts of their sordidness aside, he arrived at Transfiguration office to carry out the first part of his plan.
As he had to gain entry to Snape, he used Olin to enter the classroom without being detected and found himself stood behind MacNair, the man with a proclivity towards torture and execution.
For decades, he had been Tom's go-to person to carry out these acts when the Dark Lord felt the victim was not worth his personal attention, a talent that Walden had continued with during his employment at the Ministry.
Harry hadn't had much to do with the man, but he had heard of him and the acts that he had carried out, so he felt no remorse in removing his head with only a wave of his wand.
MacNair uttered no sound.
His body slumped forward and sprayed the room with blood, but little else. When the bleeding slowed to a macabre dribble, Harry conjured a bag, levitated the head into it and finally shrunk it.
Even in death, MacNair would serve a purpose.
Leaving the office behind, there were three more stops he needed to make, and the Carrows were next on the list.
He found the two of them fast asleep, nude and in a tangle of limbs as they snored, neither aware of his presence.
Both were killed before they woke, and their shrunken heads added to what was quickly becoming a rather unpleasant accessory to carry.
Still, Harry pressed on, passing another prefect patrol and the Great Hall that the aurors had seemingly taken for themselves. He would return for them soon enough, but there was a pressing issue waiting for him on the grounds.
Why the rat was here, he couldn't be certain, but he was grateful for it. Finally, Pettigrew would get what had been coming to him.
Keeping an eye on the map, he tracked the man skirting the edge of the forest, and as Harry drew closer, he realised he wasn't in his human form. With the sun having set some time ago, it was almost impossible to spot the small creature he had become, but it was not something he need concern himself with.
Olin would ensure Pettigrew revealed himself.
With only a thought, the raven silently took to the sky and Harry kept his distance. Wormtail was as elusive as they came, and he did not wish to spook to the man to soon.
His chance to do that would come soon enough.
It presented itself a moment later when a skirmish could be heard somewhere just ahead of him. A squeak of surprise sounded, and scurrying feet soon followed.
Realising he would not escape the bird's clutches, Pettigrew reverted to his human form, but before he could even level his wand at Olin, his arm fell to the floor with a dull thud.
Even before he could scream when the realisation of what happened set in, Harry silenced the man and smashed his fist into the jaw of his parent's betrayer.
"I don't suppose you thought you'd ever see me again, did you," he snarled as he seized the front of the man's robes and struck several more blows.
When he was finished, Pettigrew's face was a swollen and bloody mess, his breathing hampered by a broken nose and his jaw sitting at an unnatural angle.
"I've waited for this day for a very long time, Wormtail," Harry growled, ignoring the throbbing of his knuckles. "I've thought about all the things I would do to you before I killed you, but it would never be enough. What you did to them and to me will see you suffer more on the other side. I will see to that myself."
Pettigrew showed no indication that he even knew where he was or what had happened. He was likely concussed, but Harry would not allow him such an easy end.
"No, Peter, you're not getting off so quickly," he snorted as he stood. "Crucio!"
The man's body tensed, his back arching as the spell ripped through him, fuelled by Harry's disdain.
When his suffering was ended, Wormtail's breathing was more laboured, though there was now clarity in his eyes that were full of fear and pleading.
"Save it for them," Harry spat, kicking the downed man in the ribs repeatedly. "Your pleas mean nothing to me, but if they were as kind as people say, then maybe they will have some forgiveness. You'll get none from me."
Blood was spilling from Pettigrew's already gaping mouth by the time he fell limp and Harry cleaned his shoes and hands not wanting them to be soiled by the sorry excuse for man.
Taking a deep breath, he remembered just what he was doing, and removed Peter's head before banishing his remains into the forest. Something would make a meal of him and there would be nothing left of the fickle rat.
Feeling much less satisfied than he had expected, Harry made a brief detour to the front gate where he left a surprise for Tom upon his arrival and returned to the castle to rid it of the last of the vermin.
Consulting the map for a final time, he found the aurors were still within the Great Hall and the Prefects had returned to their dorms. Evidently, his intrusion remained undiscovered, though not for long.
He smirked at the thought of Voldemort's face when he learned of what happened here and set the last of his plans into action by sealing those garbed in red within the space he had eaten many meals with friends from a former life.
"You know what to do," he murmured to the raven on his shoulder.
Olin nodded, and when Harry conjured several other birds that looked just like him, they vanished in a puff of smoke.
Harry merely waited, listening as the screaming began and slowly begin to fade one after the other. In only a few minutes, silence reigned, and he tore the doors off the hinges.
That would get the attention of those within the school, the echo of them clattering on the stone floor travelling throughout the castle.
Looking upon the aurors, their suffering was on display for all to see. Some had clawed out their own eyes, others had resisted the urge and choked to death on the toxic fumes still dissipating.
Harry felt nothing for them. They had chosen their side and had reaped what they had sown.
"Who are you?" a voice demanded.
Harry turned to be greeted by the sight of a boy in green and silver trimmed robes, and what appeared to be the rest of the school falling in behind him. A shaky wand was aimed at him, but he did not flinch.
"Higgins!" Flitwick snapped as he arrived on the scene, his eyes widening as he took in the figure before him. "Potter?" he choked.
"Professor," Harry replied with a nod.
"I-I've sent for the Dark Lord," Higgins stuttered, his wand having not moved.
"I expected one of you would," Harry returned with a shrug, "but he will not be getting in here. His followers are all dead, and he will be too soon enough. Now, put your wand down. It would be a shame to have to add to this," he finished, gesturing.
The boy, a seventh-year judging by his appearance, was torn, though his mind was made up by the arrival of Snape who disarmed him with a flick of his wand.
"Stupid boy," he mumbled. "You will all be going home shortly. Arrangements have been made and messages sent to your parents. You will follow me to the seventh floor. Your belongings will follow in due course."
"We're going home?" a young Hufflepuff girl asked.
"The castle is not safe for you, so come along."
The students began to file from the room, perplexed by what had happened and many shocked by the sight of the aurors that had ruled over them. When that wore off, they would be horrified, but that would be for their parents to deal with.
Harry had done what was right by them and had no regrets.
"Potter, there is something you should know. His snake is…"
"Already dead," Harry cut in. "I know what it was, and there is only one more to deal with."
Snape was somewhat taken aback by the revelation, a rare flicker of surprise passing over his features.
"Then I wish you luck," he offered, nodding before setting to work on evacuating the school.
Harry would never like the man, barely respected him if truth be told, but he was finally doing what was right, and that counted for something in his estimation.
With no time to waste dwelling on his past grudges, he returned to the third floor to take his leave of Hogwarts, ensuring to collapse the tunnel behind him.
Voldemort would not be getting in that way at the very least.
"I want him found, Greyback!" the Dark Lord snarled.
Over the past two days, his anger had been palpable, the loss of his companion having not been taken well by the man. This Peverell had made enough of a nuisance for himself, so much so that he could feel the spark of hope emanating from the wizarding public.
That could not be allowed to continue and this Peverell needed to be quelled immediately.
"We have his scent," Greyback replied. "We will catch up with him soon."
"See that you do. I will not tolerate failure!"
"My Lord," Lucius broke in. "I believe this Peverell is using a false name. I have looked into it, and the family has been extinct for several centuries."
The Dark Lord glared at the blonde. That was information he already knew from his own investigation into the line that he had descended from.
Before he could respond, however, the Malfoy Patriarch stiffened.
"What is it?" Voldemort snapped.
"A summons, my lord. An urgent one from Hogwarts."
"One of the Prefects."
The Dark Lord felt a small jab of concern. Unless the student in question had done so mistakenly then something must be sorely amiss.
Those he had marked still in education were told not to request his presence unless absolutely necessary.
"Then we shall attend to see what has happened," he said calmer than he felt.
One after the other, they vanished, and the Dark Lord followed, only to come upon a sight that filled him with anger and dread.
The accompanying Death Eaters remained silent as a staring match between their Lord and the ominous raven they had seen only once took place.
"DEATH!" the omen shrieked from atop the severed head of Walden MacNair that had been mounted on the gates of the school along with those of Pettigrew, the Carrows and what appeared to be Severus.
Even before the Dark Lord could draw his wand, the raven took flight and flew through the Dark Mark that had sat above the school for the past half decade.
Lord Voldemort could only look on as his symbol was reduced to sparks as it fell from the sky.
Still, none dared to speak, and the gates refused to budge, the magic pouring off them strong and unyielding.
"Find him," the Dark Lord commanded simply before he vanished, his anger beyond coherency of thought.
The early hours of the morning saw Narcissa awake, the nap she had taken in the afternoon serving to not only provide more insight into the dreams she had been having but to keep her from her bed later than usual.
She didn't mind. It gave her time to ponder the latest of her dalliances with the mysterious Lord Peverell, this one proving to be more intimate than the others. Not in the way she had envisioned intimate moments with him thus far that provoked the unfamiliar stirrings of arousal but intimate in a more wholesome way.
Oddly, she had been teaching him potions, something that he proved to be rather inept at, much to her amusement. But it wasn't that she remembered, but how comfortable she felt around him and how much she smiled.
She had never felt so at ease in Lucius's company, nor laughed so much. This Peverell did that for her and it saddened her that what she was experiencing were only dreams or at best, visions of a life of another.
She released a deep breath as she nursed the mug of hot tea she had made in the hope it would aide sleep in coming.
Such a life would have been wonderful, and she could not help but envy the woman she was in her dreams.
She was pulled from her thoughts as the radio she had salvaged and repaired from the parlour crackled before the same voice she had heard earlier in the day spoke.
"River here, and exciting news just in. It has been reported by an exceptionally reliable source that the Dark Mark that has floated above Hogwarts since it fell is gone, and the Death Eaters within have been killed. I'm going to pass you to Royal who has more on this."
Narcissa listened with rapt attention as the second man continued, his voice much deeper than the first.
"It is true, good listeners. I saw for myself the heads of the Carrows, Walden MacNair, Peter Pettigrew, and Headmaster Snape on the gates of the school. There has been no word from within the castle that has been put under strict lockdown."
Narcissa's eyes widened at the information. Lucius would be beside himself.
"What can you tell us of the report about the raven?" River spoke.
Now Narcissa was really paying attention. The mention of the raven made her think of the odd one in her dreams.
"It is said that a raven greeted the Dark Lord as he arrived, but it is no normal bird. It has white eyes and was the one responsible for destroying the Dark Mark. Little else is known," Royal finished.
"Olin," Narcissa whispered.
Olin was here, and if the raven was here, that meant Harry was too. But what did that mean?
The question only frustrated her.
"In honour of this most welcome development, our next song is dedicated to the one and only Dark Lord. We hope you're miserable tonight you pale bastard. This is River and Royal signing off."
Narcissa was lost in thought as a song she didn't know began playing and she turned off the radio.
In only a matter of days, Harry had surfaced here and was changing the tide of the war against the Dark Lord.
But where did Narcissa fit in all of this. She could no longer consider that her dreams, visions, or whatever they may be were not connected in some way. It was all too coincidental.
She snorted as she shook her head.
She was a middle-aged woman and was fantasising about a life she hadn't lived but felt as though she had. If it was only a series of dreams, it would not be such an issue, but it was the emotions she felt connected to them.
The dreams may only be just that, but the feelings were very real, and she was hard-pressed to deny that they teased her so, that there wasn't a part of her that didn't want what she had seen for herself.
She had never been a romantic at heart, but what she was seeing when she closed her eyes filled her with a sense of longing, a longing for someone to look at her the way Harry did, and a longing for all of it to be as real as it felt to her.
She huffed slightly, her need to deny the reality she faced setting in once more.
No, this wasn't her nor were the looks and smiles Harry sent her way for her. They were for another, one that had not been tainted by the likes of Lucius Malfoy or were nearing fifty-years-old.
She could a glimpse of herself in the mirror as she stood from her seat.
Narcissa was still a beautiful woman, but a far cry from the youthful Healer-In-Training she had once been, and that was the truth of the matter.
Still, why was it that when she was faced with reality, the longing yet grew?
He had felt the need to come here. With his work at Hogwarts complete, it felt the right thing to do. Perhaps it was that, in a way, things were coming full circle. After all, it was with James and Lily Potter that it had all begun, and with Wormtail dead, the end was near.
Harry merely stared at the gravestones of his parents, somehow feeling closer to them than ever but also further than he had ever been. They had been taken before he had learned anything about them and, through an odd twist of fate he had come to know them well, just not in a way he had ever expected.
"I got him," he whispered. "The rat is dead."
He thought about trying to summon them for a moment, but in truth, he feared doing so. A part of him hoped they would understand the things he had done, the choices he had made, but there's was also another that believed they would be ashamed of him.
He didn't want to face that.
The James and Lily Potter here that should have raised him were long-dead, and as much as it saddened Harry to acknowledge it, he didn't need their approval and had accepted that they were gone many years prior.
He was a grown man, and he didn't need them.
Were he still a boy and living as he once had, maybe it would be different, but he was past that stage of his life. He had a child of his own now.
"I got married," he chuckled, eying the ring that adorned his finger. "Neither of you would approve if she was the way you knew her, but she is amazing. We have a daughter too, Helena. I would do for her exactly what you did for me, as would Cissy."
Harry didn't know what to say to them. Throughout the many hours he had imagined speaking to his parents, he had been a child and had thought of only asking for them to come back to him. As a man that did not need that, he was stumped.
What do you say to two people you never truly knew?
"I'm not sorry for what I've done. You might be ashamed of me or disappointed, but I did what I have to survive," he sighed. "The Potter line here is done, I suppose. Helena is a Peverell, as am I, but the Potters have their own place where I live now. They will live on there, I will make sure of that."
Finding nothing else to say, he stood.
There had been no closure to have here. He hadn't broken down as he once may have, but he needed to come, nonetheless. Even if only to see where they rested for once in his life.
Walking away from where the Potters had been laid to rest, he came upon a collection of graves bearing the Dumbledore name.
The headmaster had been buried within grounds of Hogwarts, but there had been no sign of his monument this evening. Undoubtedly, Tom had seen it fit to have it removed.
The Dark Lord could destroy all he wanted, but that didn't prevent Harry from summoning the man who had helped him more than any other. Despite Albus's manipulative ways, he was not a bad person, just a man that shouldered many burdens and took it upon himself to bear the load alone.
"I see that you managed to figure it out," the ethereal figure commented, a smile tugging at his lips and the twinkle of his eye present as ever.
"With no thanks to you," Harry snorted.
"Would you have believed me if I told you?"
Harry frowned at the question and shook his head.
"Probably not," he conceded.
Dumbledore offered him a slight bow.
"I find that sometimes discovering things for ourselves prove to be more beneficial," he replied, "And I could not be certain what would happen. I would not have liked to hazard a guess with something such as the hallows."
"Well, they certainly proved to be more than I could have imagined."
"Indeed," Dumbledore acknowledged, "but you carry them so well, Harry. You continue to surprise and fill me with me pride."
"Is it peaceful? On the other side," he clarified.
"It is," the man confirmed. "I once thought I would grow tired of eternal peace, but when it is all you know, you never do."
Harry gave his former mentor a smile. If anyone deserved peace, Dumbledore did.
"Do you think he would have given Bellatrix one of them? He gave the diary to Lucius."
Dumbledore hummed thoughtfully.
"I would not dismiss the idea, however, where would Bellatrix conceal such a thing? She has no place of safety for her own as Lucius had," he pointed out.
"I hadn't thought about that," Harry groaned.
"Not to worry, Harry," Dumbledore comforted. "I can assure you that the Lestrange home was thoroughly searched after their capture and no such thing was found."
"Then I am lost."
Dumbledore shook his head.
"Not necessarily," he countered. "There was no such thing found within their home, but there is somewhere else where the Ministry could not access, a place guarded by creatures that Bellatrix would believe are so beneath her intelligence that they would not even know what they were guarding."
"Gringotts," Harry huffed. "Tom broke in before when he tried to steal the stone. He could get in there again if needed."
"I believe so," Dumbledore agreed.
"Well, that is a problem," Harry sighed.
"Perhaps," Dumbledore observed, "but I believe that wonderful cloak of yours could be rather useful."
Before Harry could respond, the figure had faded, leaving him frustrated as the man had in life.
"Bloody goat," he grumbled as he too vanished, returning to his temporary home.
"Death!" Olin greeted him.
"How did he take the news?" Harry asked, meeting the gaze of his companion, revelling in the fury of the Dark Lord as he witnessed what happened when the man had arrived at the gates of the school.
Harry had expected more ranting and raving from his nemesis, but it appeared he was so far beyond anger that he did not know how to react.
"They're getting close," Harry commented, referring to the pack of werewolves that had been tracking him over the past couple of days. "They will arrive soon enough, and we must be ready for them."
"Death!" Olin replied, seemingly agreeing.
"Then I will begin preparing," Harry declared, "and you will find Bellatrix. I want to be certain it's in Gringotts before we risk breaking in. Do not let her see you, but keep watch on her,"
Olin nodded before disappearing in a puff of smoke and Harry knew he could trust the raven with the task. He would find the woman.
With his companion gone, Harry turned his attention to preparing for another fight, this one with a sizable pack of creatures that could not be negotiated with, though it would be them begging for mercy by the time he was through.
He would see to it that they could bring harm to no other and would present the head of Greyback to Remus as a parting gift.
The full moon was two nights from now, and that would be when they struck. As dangerous and terrifying as they could prove to be, they remained as predictable as ever and Harry would be ready for their arrival.
His thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of a patronus in the form of a doe and Harry frowned at the familiarity of the creature as it spoke in the voice of Severus Snape.
"The students have all been evacuated from the castle. I have offered some the opportunity to return with their families. It will be safer for them if the Dark Lord decides to look for them."
Harry nodded, relieved that Snape had proven himself when it mattered. Perhaps the man would choose to continue at Hogwarts when all was said and done.
For the time being, Voldemort believed him dead, and that only served to benefit Harry. Not knowing who controlled the wards would be an obstacle for the man to overcome. That would buy those within a day or two at the very least.
By the time Voldemort was even close to breaching the walls, as he would be inclined to do, Harry would have achieved all he needed to finish of the man permanently, and then, he would return home to begin once again.
It was with tears spilling from the corner of her eyes that Narcissa woke, her breathing fast and shallow. What she had witnessed could not have been real, could it? She knew in her heart of hearts that these things had not come to pass, but it ached to think of what could have been for her.
"Because it is not Lucius Malfoy I've fallen in love with, Harry."
The words echoed in her mind, and she swallowed deeply. Still, they rung true. She had not fallen in love with Lucius. That had never come to pass, and now, much to her confusion, she felt more for the man that had plagued her dreams than she ever had her own husband.
Narcissa could even taste him on her lips, but she knew it wasn't to be. She was married to Lucius and not Harry.
The thought filled her with a longing sadness and another wave of tears broke free.
What was happening to her? Why was it happening?
How could she have such feelings for a man she had never met?
Even though it felt as though she and Harry knew each other better than anyone, they didn't, did they?
The feeling of accepting her fate to marry the Malfoy heir was one of dread, and part of her had wished for Harry to save her from that. The very same part had almost pleaded with him to, but she had not. She had left only to be informed by her parents that the announcement of her engagement to Lucius would take place at Bella's wedding.
From there, she had woken up in the state she found herself in now, one of loss and heartbreak.
"Oh, Harry," she whispered sadly.
As much as she wanted the teasing to end, she wanted to learn of what happened to her and the enigmatic man she had become entangled with in her dreams.
She needed to know if what she had seen was the end or if there was more to it.
What happened to Harry? Did he not feel for her as she did him? Did he merely accept her marriage to Lucius?
So many questions with so few answers.
The only way she knew she would find them was by once again surrendering herself to the mercy of her sleep, but she feared that if she did, she could not face waking up again, not without Harry here to take her from this place.