Chapter 21

Chapter 21 – Circles in Time

It was an odd sort of party.

Harry thought he shouldn’t have been surprised by that. After all, how many parties were held in the Chamber of Secrets, had doors of fire that required potions to pass through safely, and were attended almost entirely by people who were supposed to be dead?

And it wasn’t just the people who were dead. Harry had been brought his invitation by Hedwig, who seemed very cross to have been hit by an Avada Kedavra and barked to Harry all about it, as he fed her owl treats from Dumbledore’s Pensieve. And Dobby was at the party too, handing out canapés whilst wearing an odd assortment of bobble hats converted to every item of clothing he had on.

Dobby was serving Lily and James Potter, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin, who were playing scrabble and laughing at the rude words they kept forming. Sirius was trying to insist that ‘pee-pee’ should get double points, as it was a double word, but Lily wasn’t having any of that nonsense as it hadn’t fallen on a Double Points square…

Harry shook his head and moved away. Just then, a door opened in the mouth of the basilisk, who was sat quite docile at one end of the chamber. Hermione came out of it wheeling a trolley and hurried over to the party.

“Ah, Harry, there you are!” she exclaimed. “I thought you’d forgotten the password or something. Hiss and Flick, in Parseltongue, obviously.”

Harry tried to explain that he couldn’t flick, as he didn’t have a tail, but then his eyes fell onto the trolley that Hermione was wheeling. There was a large cake on it. A cake shaped like him. There were Oreo disks for his glasses and red-rope liquorice for his scar. It was very lifelike. Hermione took up the knife on the cake platter. He recognised it – Peter Pettigrew had used it to take his blood when he resurrected Tom Riddle. Harry wondered how Hermione had gotten hold of it, but then she began cutting into his cake-arm.

“Ouch!” Harry yelped. He felt the pain cut his actual flesh, and felt the trickle of blood ooze down across his skin. Then he screeched out…as Hermione began to eat the slice she’d cut.

“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” Hermione asked. “You’re very tasty. You should try a bit.”

She offered him the knife, which Harry took just so she couldn’t cut him again.

“Hermione…why are you eating me?”

“Well, I didn’t want to, really,” Hermione explained sweetly. “But then I knew I had to, if I wanted to learn ritual magic for you. Have you done this ritual before? I do hope I’ve gotten it right. You’ll be so proud of me. I’m not sure I’d have managed eating the real you, so I baked your essence into a cake, and did some Dark Magic, to make it sort of a voodoo doll cake. I used your ritual circle for it. I hope you don’t mind. I probably ruined it though. Are you sure you wont have some cake? It has mint frosting and is really quite good.”

“Dark Magic? Cannibalism?” Harry asked, his stomach churning. “Hermione…what ritual are you doing?”

“Why…I’m creating a Horcrux, obviously,” she said simply. “I’ve collected all of Voldemort’s to see how he did it.”

She motioned to a table nearby. Harry looked over, horrified, at a long conveyor of items: a cracked ring, a diary with a hole in it, a broken locket, a melted cup, a twisted diadem and the shed skin of a giant snake. It was like some nightmare version of the Generation Game. Harry wondered idly where the cuddly toy was.

“And I have to partake of the flesh of my sacrificial victim to imbibe myself with their power,” Hermione went on. “And cake will surely taste nicer than the flesh of my sacrifice. Speaking of which…forgive me for this, love…it wont hurt…it’ll be as easy as falling asleep…”

Harry looked up in terror as Hermione’s eyes became slit-like, her wand snapped into her hand and aimed right at him…there was a flash of green, which hit him right in the face like a bolt of white-hot lightening. Harry felt his skin split open, heard the sinew rip apart as it was torn like a rag, and he gave a piercing shriek as he hit the sodden leaves of the Forest floor…

And Harry woke with a panicked start. His breath heaved in shallow spurts, his heartbeat rushing loud in his ears. He looked over at Hermione, still sleeping soundly next to him, no wand and no snake-eyes, and he allowed himself to still. It was just a nightmare. He fell back against his pillows, brushing sweat from his face. His face…it was still whole. At least, it felt that way. But still, Hermione’s curse had felt so real.

Harry slipped from bed and headed into the alchemy cell. He quietly poured cold water into his china basin and splashed his heated cheeks. His reflection leered back at him, pale and startled, the remnants of the dream still clinging to him. He touched his face cautiously, as though it were a mask that might slip at any time.

Harry hadn’t really analysed it, in the whirlwind of events of the past few weeks. Killing Ginny, torturing Ron, blowing up half of Diagon Alley…his own healing had somehow got lost in the shuffle. He ran his hands over his skin now, in the dark of the silent night. It was smooth, softer than he remembered. There was even a trace of stubble starting to spring up there. He found this the most surprising thing of all. And it was jarring.

This was all too normal.

Harry supposed that this was why he’d had a nightmare. It was his psyche’s way of telling him this was far from over. How dare he relax and enjoy weddings and talk of babies? They were still at war, and it was a conflict which was still yet to be won, despite the slew of little victories they’d enjoyed. Harry had forgotten that, allowed himself to get caught up in the beautiful ideas of his future with the return of his beautiful face. When, in fact, what the world needed was for him to be ugly.

Well, it wasn’t the scar that had made him that. It was his life, his catalogue of macabre experiences. He could remember them now without them crippling him. They were stirring, angering. His mind planes had kept them from overwhelming his conscious mind, but the ritual to destroy the Horcrux had taken care of that. But there was good and bad with the procedure.

Ultimately, it would all turn out to be well, Harry was confident of that. But he knew equally well that there would be an adjustment period that would be difficult to get through. Hermione had healed him of his wounds, but the scars would only fade over time. And there was no elixir that could speed up that process. He had been fixed, forgiven and lightened of his guilt by all those he carried it for. Whereas once these memories had sat in the back of his mind, like remnants of dreams he couldn’t quite remember, now they were all there, smouldering like once fiery infernos, doused by the love and forgiveness of those he cared for the most.

Harry looked in the mirror as he thought that. His heart tracked up to lodge in his throat and he took a moment to consider things. He had been forgiven, he was so loved that all the horrors he carried blame and misery for had been taken from him. When had he earned that? They were allowing him to forgive himself, and it would be the ultimate disservice to their sacrifices if he denied them.

He just wasn’t finding it that easy. Harry had simply become so used to barriers, to being on the defensive in every sense. He could hide his hurt in his mind planes, heal his wounds in his secret cell. He even missed his scarves and shawls in a odd sort of way. They had become like a security blanket. He felt naked without them…and more vulnerable than he had in years. He sighed at that.

And then a pair of warm arms slipped around his middle.

“Bad dreams?” Hermione asked gently.

Harry huffed. “I didn’t think you’d noticed.”

“I didn’t, to be truthful,” said Hermione. “But I woke and rolled over for a cuddle, and you weren’t there. I suppose I’ve just gotten used to sharing my bed space with you.”

Harry smiled and turned, drawing Hermione to him. He just held her a moment, let the warmth of her body drive away the last niggles of his memory of the Forbidden Forest floor. “I like that, too. Snuggling in the dark, I mean.”

“So why aren’t we cwtched up now then?”

Harry sighed. “Like you said. Bad dreams.”

“I’m supposed to have taken all those away from you,” said Hermione crossly. “I thought you said the ritual worked.”

“It did,” said Harry, leading Hermione back through to the bedroom. “Doesn’t mean I can’t still have nightmares, you know, like a normal person. I’ll just have to stop eating cheese before bed…that causes bad dreams I’ve been told.”

“Bad breath, maybe,” Hermione pondered, sliding back onto the bed. “Not so sure about dreams, though. Come here…come to me, and tell me what’s troubling you.”

She sat against the headboard and opened her arms and legs. Harry slid up between them, his back against her chest, so that Hermione was practically cocooning him when she wrapped him up with both sets of limbs, with his head just below her chin. She began to massage his scalp with her fingertips and Harry sighed in contentment. He loved it when she did this.

“Mmmm,” he purred. “Could you adjust my eyebrows, please?”

Hermione obliged with a soft little laugh. “It’s a good job I find grooming you a particularly sensual activity. I feel like a little slave right now.”

“Yes, but you’re my slave -“

“I know, I know,” Hermione cut in. “And there’s value in that.”

“Just so long as we agree,” Harry quipped.

“So…what’s wrong?”

“It’s not wrong as such,” said Harry. “It’s just…different.”

“Good different or bad different?” Hermione asked.

“I’m not really sure,” said Harry. “I was having a weird dream. You were making a Horcrux out of me.”

Hermione stiffened. “I was…what?”

“You were eating a cake you’d made of me as part of the Horcrux ritual, and it was hurting me like a voodoo doll.”

Hermione giggled lightly. “I bet you tasted yummy, though.”

“Hey, I’m supposed to be traumatised by the dream down here,” Harry protested playfully. “I did have mint frosting, mind.”

“Ooh, I love mint frosting!” said Hermione eagerly.

“I know. It was on the cake Rhian made for us yesterday. That must have been why I was dreaming of it.”

“And everything else is still on your mind, obviously,” said Hermione, nodding. “But it was just a dream, Harry. We both know I can’t bake for shit!”

“Yeah…I think, if I’m ever asked to pick a last meal on Death Row, I might ask for one of those Welsh Cakes you made…I think I’d be too scared to try one before then!”

“Fuck you, Harry,” said Hermione, clipping his ear. He just laughed at her. “But, I don’t understand…why has that dream freaked you out so much?”

“Well, it’s like you said, it was just a dream,” Harry explained. “I…I haven’t had one for a while. Not like that. It was a condition of my mind planes. I used to always go to them when I slept. Other kinds of dreams couldn’t get through.”

Hermione inhaled sharply. “So…when was your last normal dream?”

“At a guess…I’d have to say I haven’t had a dream like that for…well, about four years.”

“Oh, Sweet Merlin, Harry!” Hermione moaned. “And you’ve been struggling in that battered mind of yours every single night for all that time?”

Harry nodded. “Please don’t run away. I told you I was fragile. I suppose it’s just…I don’t know, shaken me up a bit. It’s silly, I know.”

Hermione hugged her legs around him like a vice. They were deliciously bare, pale against the sliver of moonlight from the window. “I’m not going anywhere. Run away…pfft. I took you with all your baggage, and offered you mine in return. We’re both in this for the long haul, sweetheart.”

Harry sucked in a breath at her words. He bit down on his lip. “That’s the other thing…the real reason I’m probably going to keep having nightmares.”

“What is?”

Harry suddenly changed his mind about his confession. He’d said enough for one night. “Forget it, it’s stupid. I’ll get over it.”

“Tell me, or this head massage ends right now,” Hermione warned.

“Merlin, you’re such a cruel boss,” said Harry. He sighed again in resignation. “Well, it’s just…I don’t know…about the future.”

“What about it?”

“I never really expected one,” said Harry. “Especially not this one – my literal dream come true. I hoped, obviously. But when my mum sent me back for you, I didn’t have any idea how that would happen. You were married – happily, I assumed – to Ron. When I learned that you weren’t, my plan changed to make myself strong enough to protect you. It wasn’t for the world, or the war, or any of that crap.

“It was all just for you.”

Harry felt Hermione smile into his hair, as she kissed the crown of his head. “And now you’ve got me. I hope you’re not trying to say I’m a disappointment or that you’re having second thoughts!”

Harry chuckled at her jokey tone. “I’m not even going to justify that comment with a suitably cutting retort. You’re beyond all that I could have imagined, as you very well know.”

Harry pulled up one of Hermione’s knees to kiss as an indicator of his sincerity.

“I’m glad you think so,” Hermione quirked. “So what’s the problem? You’ve rescued me, our future is going to be amazing, and anyone who tries to stand in the way of that wont live long enough to be an issue.”

Harry hugged Hermione’s thighs, still clutching tight around his waist. “That’s kind of my point. My life – my whole life – has been defined by this bloody prophecy and the misinterpretations of it. But now, the only part that matters – that I can vanquish the Dark Lord – is on the horizon.”

Hermione curled her legs tighter still. “I see. So you’re worried about what happens after? Once your destiny is fulfilled. With so much of your life still to go.”

“Something like that.”

“That’s why you weren’t that bothered about Riddle’s poison slowly killing you,” Hermione huffed. “It was another definite for you. Something you had a measure of control over.”

“Pretty much,” Harry agreed. “I know I can kill Riddle, and I knew that the poison would kill me in however many years it took. But now…I don’t know what to think. I always hoped for a long future with you, but now I’ve got it I…I don’t know what to do with it. I want more than anything to be good enough for you, but if I’m not killing our enemies and saving the world, I’m not sure I know how to do that.

“I…I’m scared…terrified, actually, that I won’t know how to be a good husband to you once this darkness has passed.”

Hermione threaded her arms around Harry and drew him so close she might have been trying to fuse them as one.

“You listen to me, Harry Potter,” said Hermione gently. “I made a promise to myself to never let you be afraid of anything ever again. You’ve carried so much fear and negativity around with you for way too long. I wont stand for you doing it any more. Especially not for anything to do with me! I know the idea of our new future can be a bit scary at times. Merlin, the thought of creating life is far more terrifying than taking life ever was! But, the difference is, we’re in this together. Neither of us are alone anymore. I can’t wait to butcher Ron and watch you slaughter Riddle, but the game doesn’t end there.”

“What do you mean?”

“Harry – the magical world has been under a dark tyranny for five years,” said Hermione. “Undoing that could take the next fifty. We’ll have plenty to keep us occupied. Besides, I intend our purge to be more complete than the last one. I say, right here and now, we agree to not let any Death Eater escape the justice of our wands. No show trials…no Azkaban…just extermination. For witch, wizard and creature alike. To be a blood enemy of the House of Potter is to be considered a death sentence. I want those fuckers to be counting the days till we hunt them down, and shitting themselves with the fear of it.”

“Seriously? That’s what you want to do?” asked Harry, his voice quiet in awed reverence. “Become Dark Wizard catchers?”

“No, not catchers,” Hermione corrected. “Dark Wizard hunters. One section of Britain at a time. We’ll cleanse our own country first, then move to England and Scotland. We’ll go up and down…and if we see a Dark Mark, we kill the wizard wearing it!”

Harry nodded his approval and brought Hermione’s hand up to his lips, using his kiss as a seal of their oath. Suddenly, the future wasn’t so bleak after all.

* * *

“So…what do we know?”

Neville was pacing the room, a piece of parchment trailing behind him. All the answers he wanted were on it, but he just couldn’t be bothered reading. Hermione scowled at him. Any chance at reading was a blessing from the Gods, in her eyes, so for Neville to so blatantly channel Ron Weasley’s spirit in this way didn’t sit well with her at all. And when she told him, he just pouted crossly, while Harry laughed in the seat next to her.

“What we know, Lady Potter,” said Lord Angus Kelvin. “Is that Tom Riddle has gathered all his strength to him. And witches and wizards are just the tip of the iceberg. All his Dementors, giants, trolls…even any dragons his riders have managed to subjugate. He has called them all to his banner, to prepare for the final assault he must know is coming.”

“Or to prepare to launch an attack,” Neville pointed out evenly. “Dragons…really?

Harry swore loudly as Neville paled slightly. To subjugate a dragon meant to clip its wings at the shoulder joint, so it couldn’t fly out of range of a wand. It was frowned upon in civilised magical society, right up there with slaying a unicorn for its blood. Right in Tom Riddle’s repertoire. Harry couldn’t wait to bring that abominable twat to heel.

“The effect,” Lord Angus went on, “is that there has been the creation of a no-access zone, three miles in radius, around Hogwarts. We wont get in there without an army, Harry.”

Harry nodded. “Hardly unexpected. What are our options?”

“There’s always the Muggle army in France,” Owain Glyndwr Jones offered, quietly. Harry gave him a pointed stare. “Well…it’s better than nothing.”

“We’ve not needed an army before,” Neville pointed out.

“True, but we’ve not had an army to fight before, either,” Patrick O’Brien chipped in. “Harry – what about your friends abroad? The Yanks and the Africans? You said they pledged support for when the time was right. Seems pretty right now.”

Harry considered that a minute. Then he shook his head. “They said they’d help, but not an army. Besides, I’d rather keep the wards closed. Riddle isn’t short of supporters, especially in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. At least if we can keep him in Britain we’ll know where he is.”

“Guerilla warfare has worked well so far,” said Hermione. “All we need is to just get close enough for a clear shot at Riddle. Then it’s over.”

“I don’t think it’s anything like that simple,” Harry disagreed. “Riddle is at the tip of this, but we need to make a clean kill sweep of his top brass. Many of his Death Eaters are just as evil as he, don’t forget. We have to get them all.”

“And even that might not be enough,” said Frank Longbottom, who had just entered with Sir David Pincott. “We have some disturbing news.”

“That makes a change, Dad,” Neville quirked. “What is it now?”

“Sir David can explain better,” said Frank. “He’s just come from London.”

“Where things have taken a most unexpected turn,” said Sir David.

“Unexpected how?” asked Harry, frowning.

“Well, in the wake of Queen Elizabeth’s murder, the country has been, essentially, locked down, as they decide how to respond,” said Sir David. “And…now they’ve decided.”

“I don’t like riddles,” Harry huffed. “As we all know. Spit it out, Sir David.”

“There has been a conclusion to the longest emergency session of COBRA – that’s the security briefing council of the British Government to you and I – in recorded history,” Sir David explained. “They have decided to come out into the open about the presence of magicals in the UK. They have declared that the murder of Elizabeth was a ‘false-flag’ operation, carried out by rogue elements of Wizard Government…to provoke a war between Muggle and Magic. They say that the wizard in the Youtube video, who used the alias of Lord Voldemort, is actually called…Harry Potter.”

“What!” Harry thundered.

“That’s a huge violation of the International Statute of Secrecy!” Hermione cried.

“Yes,” Sir David agreed. “Probably the biggest since the Witch Trials and the Inquisition. But it’s so big – enacted by an actual Government and not an individual – that it’s next to impossible for the ICW to contain it. The entire internet has crashed seven times in the last three hours since this news broke.”

“And it gets worse,” Frank warned.

Sir David nodded in grave concurrence. “In order to promote a spirit of co-operation between the two worlds, to fight the rogue element – i.e, us – the Muggles have appointment an interim Civil Disorder Prime Minister…from the magical world…one who has suffered terrible losses himself…to restore order to the country. A wizard who has been masquerading as a Muggle and heading up MI5 – a sort of Muggle Auror Corps. A wizard, furthermore, who’s wife and son have been killed by the magical terrorist’s leader.”

“That would be you, Harry,” Frank clarified with a grin.

“Or…his wife,” Sir David added, inclining his head to Hermione.

Harry growled lowly. “And who the fuck might that be?”

“That, Sir, would be one Lucius Malfoy.”

Harry swore so loudly the furniture shook, even with the occupants still sat in them. He fumed and raged where he was, and it took Hermione fully five minutes of massaging his heart, with the most soothing touch in her repertoire, to eventually calm him.

“So…Lucius Malfoy is leading the Muggle world in Britain?” Hermione spat. “Is that what you’re saying.”

“Word for word, my Lady,” Sir David confirmed.

Hermione huffed. “Well, that complicates things.”

“We should have seen that coming,” Harry snarled. “We’ve all but taken magical Britain back from Riddle…subjugating the Muggles to his will is all he had left. And we knew he’d infiltrated the Government. Now there are literally millions of new enemies to contend with. I assume they’ve declared me a traitor and public enemy number one?”

“And numbers two and three to boot,” said Frank. “Your face is all over the media, as well as anyone known to be associated with you.”

“And they’ve put a sweet little bounty on your head,” said Sir David. “There are ten million golden reasons for someone to turn you in now.”

“Oh for fucks sake!” Harry cursed. Hermione tried to shush him gently.

“There has been a response in the magical world to these events, though,” said Sir David.

“Go on,” Hermione implored.

“All those who have been silenced by Riddle are now stirred by confirmation that you are alive and fighting,” Sir David explained. “There are whispers on the underground networks of resistance cells and rebellion rallies. We have reason to believe that our exiles in other countries are preparing to mobilise in Dublin.”

“That’s great news!” Hermione exclaimed. Then her face dropped as she clocked Harry’s dark expression. “Isn’t it, Harry?”

“No, I don’t think it is at all,” said Harry, seriously. “It’s playing right into Riddle’s hands. If the magicals start to rebel en masse, he’s just going to point the finger right at me, for rabble rousing. There will be reprisals…Muggles will start hunting Magicals. The pack mentality of hooligans is a dangerous thing. And…if the magicals all gather in one place to meet or rally…”

Hermione gasped sharply as understanding struck. “The Muggles will have a single target to attack…with multiple casualties!”

“Exactly,” said Harry. “And I rather think Lucius Malfoy would have no problem dropping a nuke on an unsuspecting number of magical enemies. He’d promise to clean it all up with magic so they’d give him permission to do it.”

Neville paled further. “We have to stop that…but where would they go?”

“I think we have to assume that any place with a strong connection to Harry would be a rallying point,” said Frank.

“I agree,” said Hermione, sitting to face Harry now he wasn’t about to blow up the palace. “I used to hold my own Deathday Parties for you, but there were larger gatherings…particularly at your shrine in Godric’s Hollow.”

“Fucking shrine!” Harry spat. “Please don’t call it that.”

“Sorry,” Hermione mumbled meekly.

“Yeah, I snuck into one of those once,” said Neville, taking over. “I was just doing some Death Eater tracking and I was led straight there. They knew about the gatherings, encouraged them even.”

Hermione nodded. “They saw it as a chance to celebrate, when the rest of us simply mourned your passing.” She placed a grip on Harry’s thigh as his anger rose again, but it was as much to offset her grief-laden remorse as to calm him. “We have to assume any rebels would use it as a rallying point.”

“That makes sense,” said Harry. He stood up. “I’m going to go to Godric’s Hollow. Right now. Hermione…do you fancy an outing?”

“What for?”

“I’m going to destroy that pissing monument they erected to my death, before the Death Eaters or the Muggles can kill more people at it,” Harry explained. “Then I’m going to practice my Fidelius Charm skills. I rather thought you’d make an excellent choice to keep my secrets.”

Hermione gasped. “You’re going to create a new Fidelius Ward around the house?”

“No…around the whole village,” said Harry. “A lot of magicals live there already. We have to protect them if we can. Come on, I need you.”

“And what shall we do whilst you’re gone?” asked Neville.

Harry thought a moment. “Well, what we need right now is some good PR, or some cracking propaganda. Talk to Luna. We might need her expertise on this.”

Hermione cocked an eyebrow at him. “Since when is Luna an expert on propaganda?”

“She isn’t,” said Harry. “But her father did once run the widest reaching alternative media source in the magical world. It’s not much…but for now it’s the best we can do.”

* * *

Harry and Hermione apparated together to Godric’s Hollow, taking each others hand as they strolled through the village. It was largely deserted at the early evening hour, but the quietness put Harry on alert as they made their way along the narrow lane. The cottages on either side were alarmingly still, as though the whole place was under curfew.

Then Harry saw why. He pulled Hermione to a stop, just as they rounded the bend and faced onto the village square.

“What is it?” she breathed quietly, her voice betraying her own battle readiness.

“Look,” said Harry. He pointed to a tall pole nearby, on top of which a small camera was rotating.

“CCTV. The Muggles have mobilised fast,” Hermione spat. “We can assume the whole village is under their surveillance. Probably got satellites trained on us as we speak.”

“Hmm,” said Harry. He drew his wand. “I wonder…Lumos Locomotor!”

A ball of brilliant white light shot from the tip of Harry’s wand, sailed through the air a moment, then a spell beam – orange in colour – suddenly shot from a point in the darkness and connected with it. Hermione flicked her own wand into her hand.

“Relax,” said Harry, easing her arm down. “That’s just a tracking spell. Probably from a static gem.”

“How are we going to get through?” asked Hermione, squinting hard for the source of the spell.

“I don’t think we have the luxury of subtlety,” said Harry. “We have to know what we’re dealing with.”

Harry flicked his wand again. A phoenix, made entirely of fire, shot out and flew around the square at incredible speed. As it passed certain points, objects began to glow and more tracking spells shot out, but the phoenix swooped and dived to avoid them. It eventually landed on top of the CCTV camera, which promptly melted under the heat.

“I count four tracking gems,” said Hermione. Harry nodded in agreement. “What now?”

“We need to reduce the tracking field,” said Harry. “No offence, but I need you to let me take care of this. I’m going to have to grab those tracking gems before they can hit us. Wait here.”

Then Harry darted out. He Apparated from space to space, dodging the tracking spells. With each movement, he physically pushed the gems towards the monument at the centre of the square. They were carrying hovering charms, so he simply pushed them all together until they were touching. Then he conjured a yew wood case and enclosed the gems inside. Using his wand, he burnt containment runes into the surface of the wood, then called for Hermione to join him.

“Is it safe?” Hermione asked, trotting to his side.

“The yew wood is good for protection, it should contain the gems,” said Harry. “We’ll take them home, analyse them. I’d wager they are quartz. The stone has incredible memory properties, we should be able to pull the information recorded in it. We might be able to learn who placed them, and who the signals are being sent to, for there’s no-one here now.”

If any rebels were planning to gather here, they hadn’t arrived yet. Harry was sure of that. He led the way through the little village square, past the pub and the graveyard, right to the ruined house at the very end of the road. The monument erected to he and his parents was on a plinth, just as he remembered. There was fresh graffiti on it.

Harry scowled at it. Flicked his wand into his hand, and blasted the whole thing into a hundred pieces.

“Nice shot,” Hermione complimented. “Why did you aim for your own face?”

“I always fucking hated that thing,” Harry growled.

“Your face or the statue?” asked Hermione.

“Both, but the statue more. Maybe.”

“The one the Death Eaters put up for you is worse,” said Hermione. “Let me show you.”

Hermione led the way into the garden, and Harry scoffed angrily at the statue there. It was of a pair of round-rimmed spectacles, standing vertical, with cracks in each granite lens the shape of Harry’s original lightning-bolt shaped scar. The date of his demise was etched into the stone base along with the legend:

In Memoriam. Of the Boy-Who-Died-Like-A-Coward’.

Harry raised his wand, but Hermione reached out to stop him. “Hey, you did the last one. I’ve hated this monstrosity much longer than you.”

Harry conceded. Hermione obliterated it with one fierce blast from her wand. When the dust settled, there were no pieces bigger than a tennis ball. The air shifted with its destruction. Harry felt it, but Hermione didn’t seem to. He suspected what it might mean, though chose not to say anything.

If they were going to purge the country, why not start immediately.

“Show off,” Harry quipped, toeing a shard that had landed at his feet.

“That was good therapy,” said Hermione, re-holstering her wand. “Ron used to keep a picture of it, you know. I was dumb enough in the early days to think it was to remember you by. I later learned that all Death Eaters kept a picture of it, to admire and revere, especially on the anniversary.”

“I disagree,” said Harry. “I don’t think you could be dumb about anything.”

Hermione smirked. “Not even when I tried to summon your undead spirit with a pentagram every year?”

“Even then. But what made you start holding those parties for me, anyway?” Harry asked, as they strode out for the house. “And the ritual, too? You’d never done anything like that before.”

“I just didn’t believe it, Harry,” said Hermione. “That after everything you just went and bowed to Riddle. I know now that was half-true, but you were so manipulated, weren’t you? I forgive you for it. You always were pretty dumb.”

“Better that than ugly dumb!” Harry joked.

“True,” Hermione agreed. “But I just thought it must have been in the plan. Maybe you’d tricked Riddle, or gone all Obi-Wan Kenobi and become more powerful in death. Don’t laugh, I was clinging to anything. I just knew, somehow, that you weren’t gone. Luna put me onto the idea of ritual, but it was very basic compared to what you do. And the runes were all wrong. It’s probably a good thing…who knows who I might have summoned if I’d gotten it right! Or what I might have done to the afterlife!”

Harry laughed. “Only you could break the world of the dead. Speaking of which…”

They were crossing the threshold now and Harry paused on the brink. Hermione took his hand and held it tight.

“You’ve not been in here…since?”

Harry shook his head. “I just couldn’t. Even coming to the village is difficult. I took my parent’s remains back to the palace, but I couldn’t bring myself to come to the house. And now I know why.”

Hermione nodded in understanding. The magic of the place was still lingering, dense and congealed. Harry could see flashes of memory imprinted into the fabric of the air – his father setting the rune traps, Sirius turning up panicked after Pettigrew was seen with the Dark Mark tattooed on his arm, Lily singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to baby Harry, as the sounds of a wizard’s duel thundered up from the floor below…

Harry stopped and fell into a crouched position, breathing hard. Hermione joined him.

“Are you okay?” she asked gently.

“It’s like being there,” Harry moaned, scrunching his eyes against the memories. “Or like having a swarm of Dementors around me. I can’t block them out. Even my Occlumency can’t keep the images from my head.”

“Harry…let’s get out of here…and level the fucking place,” said Hermione sternly. “There’s nothing for you here now…only death.”

Harry nodded solemnly. “You’re right. Let’s go, bring the place down, set the wards. And never return here again.”

Hermione helped Harry back to his feet and guided him from the shattered building, past more images of his father and Tom Riddle, locked in ghostly battle, and into the garden at the back of the house. Harry sat down on the edge of an empty fish pond and took a moment to master himself.

“My dad put up a really good fight, you know,” said Harry quietly, replaying the memory. “He was a match for Riddle in duelling skill, but just a little bit short when it came to raw power. Maybe…if my mum had helped him…”

“Don’t think like that,” said Hermione, sitting and sliding an arm around his hunched shoulders. “The Prophecy dictated their actions. I think your mum might have been too fraught with terror for you to fight properly. I know I would be…if it was our son in danger.”

Harry tautened at that. The very idea made him shake with rage. “We’re never going to have to face that situation, that choice. Nobody will ever threaten our kids. Not if I’m alive enough to obliterate them for trying.”

“I can almost feel the remnants of what went on here,” said Hermione, gesturing sadly at the house. “No offence, but I’m glad I can’t see as you do. I don’t think I could stand it. “

“I wish I had the composure to properly look through the place,” said Harry. “My mum and dad have never gone into specific detail about the traps they set, except for the Parseltongue one. I’d have quite liked to analyse them.”

“You would?” said Hermione in a small voice. “You’d like to see the runic conjuration your parents designed for their own deaths?”

Harry paled as the thought crossed his mind. “No…no of course I don’t. That was stupid of me to say. That’s all this place is, isn’t it? A giant memorial to their sacrifice…to their deaths. And to think…I’ve obsessed about the site, about coming back here. I even thought about living here when all was said and done. How could I even have considered it?”

“You were probably thinking it would be a fitting tribute to them,” said Hermione. “A way to honour their memory.”

Harry nodded in agreement. “But the reality is I’d be living in the place where they were murdered, with that very despicable act imprinted in the very ether. I don’t want to be here anymore, Hermione. I don’t think I can stand to be for a minute longer.”

“Come on then,” said Hermione. “Lets play The Three Little Pigs game.”

Harry chortled at that. “What? We’ll huff and we’ll puff and we’ll blow the house down?”

“Yeah…with a serious of blasting hexes right to the fucking foundations! Ready?”

He was and, after throwing up a protection ward around them, they began firing hex after hex at the house. It fell in pieces, with walls tumbling left and right, until the super structure buckled under the weight of the roof and upper floor and collapsed completely in a huge cloud of dust.

Then the dust settled. And through the steadily falling gloom, a battalion of Death Eaters advanced across the garden.

Harry looked at Hermione. She seemed unfazed, and simply nodded at him. She’d known all along. She’d felt the signal sent out by the destruction of his monument. She raised her wand to him. Her magic was pounding from it. She flicked it and a giant scoreboard emerged in the air above them, with each of their names etched into it.

“Just so we can see who wins,” she replied to his curious smirk. “But, I think a bit of help might be in order.”

Then Hermione began casting spells so fast even Harry was stunned. And what she was doing even made the thirty or so Death Eaters stop in their tracks. For she was showing off her skills of Transfiguration, reforming the house rubble into giant stone chess pieces, twelve feet tall, that stood guard in front of them. When she was done, she turned to Harry, his jaw open in impressed awe.

“They’ll call this night the Justice of Minerva McGonagall,” Hermione cried angrily. “Pieces! To war!”

And they charged. These weren’t the immobile statues that were contained to the giant board under Hogwarts, though. They were lithe, tough as granite, and fast. The Death Eaters broke ranks, screeching angrily and firing ineffectual spells, as the giant knights careered through them swinging maces, the huge hooves of the stone horses trampling them, crushing ribcages and splattering skulls. It was quite a disgusting sight. A mammoth bishop skewered a Death Eater on the end of his ceremonial lance, the queen beheaded another by swinging her crown into his throat, and all the while Harry and Hermione just stood and watched.

Then Harry winked at her, vanished as a wizard and snarled loudly, as that lion he kept inside emerged in his place. Somehow, he seemed even bigger than before. He was massive. He darted through the melee, swiping those huge, razor-sharp claws at the disorientated enemies, slicing a throat here, disembowlening there. Hermione looked up at the scoreboard and huffed. It said Harry 7, Hermione 0. But she could barely see enough black-robed foes to even the score. By the time Harry returned to her and transformed he had reached double figures.

“Well that was fun,” he smirked, glancing up at the scoreboard, and sheathing a stray claw back into a regular fingernail. “Oh look…I won.”

Hermione frowned at him. “Excuse me…my chess set won! You just picked off the stragglers.”

“The scoreboard tends to disagree,” said Harry. “That was singularly brilliant, though. I’ll give you that. What gave you the idea?”

“I’ve been thinking, that’s all.”

“It was some pretty hot thinking,” Harry quipped. “Enlighten me.”

“We need an army, you said,” Hermione replied. “We don’t currently have one.”

“So you’ve been working on the problem,” Harry nodded, impressed. “And you were led onto war games. Like chess. That’s pretty fucking superb.”

Hermione blushed under Harry’s admiration. “I was actually thinking of the Terracotta Army. I went to China once and saw it. The image just came to mind. I was thinking we could do that. Transfigure clay figures or Muggle toys, perhaps even use elemental runic spells to shoot out fire and ice bolts. We might only get one or two shots but it’d be something.”

Harry grinned at her. “You’re just too fucking badass. It’s the hottest thing. I almost feel bad for outscoring you. Almost.”

“Hmmm,” Hermione huffed. She dismissed the damning scoreboard with a flick of her wand. “I still say that was too easy.”

“I don’t think Riddle would have sent anyone good to respond to the destruction of my little shrine,” said Harry. “I doubt he would think I’d do it personally. He’s probably expecting us to attack Hogwarts. His elite forces will be there. To be honest, I have no idea how I’m going to get even close to them.”

“The Dementors?” Hermione asked softly. “You’re worried about them?”

“I can’t face that many in one go,” said Harry. “It’s gotten worse since I met my mum and dad. To hear them being killed now…well, you saw what it did to me in the house.”

“Then we have to find some way to ward you against them,” said Hermione. “Modify the Patronus Charm, perhaps. Actually no, I have a better idea.”

“Which is?”

“I wasn’t lying when I said I’d never let anything hurt you again,” said Hermione, thinking fast. “The Dementors attack your mind, but I also have access to that, by being able to hear your thoughts. Harry…maybe if Celesca can help me get into your mind again, we can build you a sort of internal Patronus Shield, using my power, my protective love, to defend you from attack. Could that work?”

Harry considered it, trying to find a reason that it wouldn’t. The Dementors were driven away physically by the Patronus, but it was the effects of being near them that Harry couldn’t cope with. If he could block their signal from his mind, maybe he could have a chance against them.

“We’d have to create a defensive mind fort,” said Harry, thoughtfully. “Enola might have an idea about how to do that. It wouldn’t be a new mind plane, but it would a sort of first line of defence. Celesca may be able to do something, to divert any incoming signal trying to penetrate my mind towards it…even your signal. Narcissa could help there.”

“Then that’s what we’ll do,” said Hermione. She smirked at Harry. “But, as soon as this is all done, we’ll dismantle the fort. Don’t think you’re blocking me out that easily!”

Harry grinned at her. “Spoilsport. Come on. Let’s set this ward. You remember the spells, right?”

Hermione narrowed her eyes at him. “Do you? We can put up a shitty little tent to jog your memory if you don’t!”

“Catty!” Harry laughed. “Let’s get started. You have a secret to keep, after all…before this new secret gets out.”

He motioned to the bodies strewn around the garden, and the tiny chess set now sat on the former site of Harry’s memorial statue. He looked at it fondly, wondering how many more moves it would take for him to achieve checkmate in his own, slightly bigger game.

* * *

“It’s a sound idea,” said Enola, pacing around Harry and Hermione as she considered the problem. “And the magic would be similar to creating the mind planes, only we’d be building rather than breaking.”

Hermione frowned. She didn’t like the idea of Harry’s mind being broken, even though it had been repaired now. She felt any concept of his suffering as if it were her own physical pain.

“I agree,” said Narcissa, who was sat next to Celesca and Luna on the couch nearby. The whole group were taking tea in the Breakfast Room, as a pale sun shone weakly through the floor-to-ceiling windows. “Mind Magic all follows a similar tract; a spell to infiltrate and the shields to repel it. And, like anything, if the attack is stronger than the defence then the mind is penetrated.”

“Like Legilimency versus Occlumency,” Hermione nodded sagely.

“Exactly,” said Narcissa. “Occlumency does two things – either blocks an attack directly, or diverts it to a different outcome than the reality.”

“Which is what Severus Snape did with Tom Riddle,” said Harry. “Snape didn’t want Riddle to know his two-faced reality, but didn’t want to let on that he was blocking him, either. So he redirected him to a different conclusion, when Riddle used Legilimency on him.”

“But how can we adapt that for this purpose?” asked Hermione.

“It should be pretty much the same,” said Enola. “The Dementors emit a stream of magic that hacks into a person’s psyche, dredging up their worst memories to debilitate them. In the wild, they’d then perform the Kiss to feed on the poor bastard’s soul. All we have to do is block that initial mental incursion.”

“Which a powerful internal Patronus could do, as it’s a standard repellent for Dementors,” said Narcissa. “I agree with you, Hermione. And, powered by both your love and your alchemical marriage bond, it should be nigh on impenetrable.”

Hermione smiled brilliantly at Harry, revelling in the triumph of her plan. He allowed himself to hope this would work.

“I’m not sure we could offset the physical effects entirely,” said Enola. “You would probably still feel the cold of the Dementors, but you’d still have your mind clear to burn the wraiths to death. That might warm you up!”

Harry laughed at that. “I’ll stack them up on a pyre if that’s the case.”

“How long will it take to set that up?” asked Hermione. “Will we need a ritual?”

Narcissa looked down at Celesca, who grinned at Hermione.

“No, Lady Hermione,” said Celesca. “I can do it right now if you want. And it’ll be easier than last time.”

“Why’s that?”

“Well, and I hope this doesn’t make you cross, but I had to use my own magic to stick yours and Master Harry’s together when you married. We are sort of…joined now. Only a little bit, though. So I hope that’s okay.”

Hermione beamed at her. “That’s incredible sweetheart. Is…is that why Harry and I have a more internal connection now?”

“Yes, I think that’s what we’ve decided,” said Narcissa smiling, as Celesca clapped her hands gleefully. “Cesc and I have been investigating it. The alchemical wedding was always going to join you and Harry in that deep, spiritual way. But I think it would have just have resulted in a greater empathic sense between you. It wouldn’t have been anything like as specific as it is. But, having used the most natural Seer to be born in Britain in five hundred years, I think it has transplanted aspects of her power onto you both. There’s every chance any children you have could carry heightened sense-related powers, too.”

“Wow,” said Harry. He drew in a startled breath and spoke quietly. “Does…does that mean Celesca is almost related to us, though? If we share a connection that profound and intimate now? That’s…that’s how it works in…magical adoption, isn’t it?”

Hermione gasped aloud next to him.

“It means you have a fundamental link to her, that is similar to one you might create with an adoption, yes,” said Narcissa. “Actually…on that note…Luna?”

Luna swallowed hard, and eyed Harry and Hermione carefully. “I’ve been trying to find the right time to ask this, so this is as good as any, I suppose. I want Celesca to be safe and looked after, if anything happens to me. Don’t look like that…I could easily have been killed when I was imprisoned at Hengest. That was too close to call.

“I was hoping…actually we were hoping,” Luna smiled down at Celesca, who nodded enthusiastically at Harry and Hermione in turn, with a ridiculously eager grin. “That you might consent to becoming Celesca’s magical Godparents. In the event of anything happening to me, she’d fall under your care. Of course, Harry, I know you have Alison already, so if you’d rather not…”

“Yes!” Hermione cried out. Her eyes dampening with her euphoria. “We utterly agree! Don’t we, Harry?”

“Of course we do!” Harry chirped. “I was going to offer…but it didn’t seem right to.”

Celesca jumped up and raced to Hermione’s arms. “I’m going to be the best God-daughter ever, I promise! Ooh, and me and Ally will be God-sisters, too! She’ll be ever so pleased.”

Luna laughed. “Thank you. I know you’ll take care of her…if anything…”

Nothing will,” said Harry firmly. “To either of you. But if she’s ever threatened, I will rip apart the one who tries. She’ll be as protected as if she were our own daughter, I swear that to you.”

Luna nodded, happy tears in her eyes, too.

“Now, that will need a ritual,” Narcissa quipped. “But, one thing at a time. “Let’s build your mental fortress first.”

“But, Cissa,” said Harry. “We’ll need to test it. I don’t want to rock up to Hogwarts to confront Riddle, only to be reduced to a quivering mess.”

“There used to be a Boggart on the second floor,” said Enola. “Would that work?”

Harry shook his head. “No. Part of my alchemical transformation was to be aware of tricks and illusions. It was like the third gate of my journey. I actually think it happened when I found Sirius. I got over the tricks and illusions of his and Pettigrew’s true nature. After that, magical creatures couldn’t trick me anymore. That just got stronger when I really got into alchemy. My mind would know that the Boggart wasn’t real, and wouldn’t react to it when it changed shape to be a Dementor.”

Hermione shot him a startled look. “Is…is that why you’re immune to Veela?”

Narcissa now threw him an equally surprised stare. “You’re immune to Veela? You never said.”

Harry shrugged. “It never came up.”

“But you know that Riddle has recruited Veela, right? We’ve lost so many wizards to their honey traps. We could have found a way to harvest your resistance to their allure. Their beast forms eat their victims, did you know?”

Harry shuddered. “No, I actually didn’t. And to think…it’s probably the fantasy of lots of wizards to be gobbled by a Veela woman…”

“Harry!” Hermione admonished. “There are children here.”

“Sorry,” he replied, but Hermione’s grin gave her humour away. “In any case, that’s only part of why I’m immune to Veela. Their allure is always nullified by true love. And, during my first encounter with them, I was with you, Min. Your very voice cut through the illusion-like effect on my brain, showed me how ridiculous i was being, and protected me from them ever since.”

Hermione just looked at him, astonished but adoringly.  

“Gobbled?” asked Celesca innocently. “Why would wizards want to be gobbled by a monster?”

Harry bit on his lip and tried to look meek. “Veela are not monsters. Well…I say that…but are they?”

“They are hybrids,” said Hermione. “But at least they aren’t dead, like vampires. That’s bestiality and necrophilia in one weird fetish. Veela are more like bird versions of mermaids.”

“I’d like to be a mermaid,” said Celesca, thoughtfully. “They’re really pretty.”

“Not real ones,” said Harry darkly. “And they couldn’t possibly be as pretty as you.”

Celesca beamed at him.

“Plus, they are half fish,” Hermione frowned. “I never quite understood the attraction there.”

“I know,” said Harry, grinning. “I also think they are the wrong way around. Why would you want a human top and a fish tail? All the fun bits of a woman are on the bottom half!”

Luna giggled but Hermione huffed at Harry. “That’s enough filth from you. Besides, I’ll have you know my intellect and sparkling wit are two of my most attractive features, and both come from my ‘top half’.”

“You’re quite right,” Harry smirked. “Come on, Cesc. Let’s get my wife into my head before she decides to bash it in.”

Narcissa stood and reached for her cloak. “I’ll leave you in Enola’s care for this. Harry…do you mind lending those two fierce security witches to me for a few hours?”

“Where are you going? Cabinet meeting?” Narcissa frowned at Harry’s poor joke. She’d been insanely irritated by her estranged husband’s rise to power in the Muggle world. “Sorry…too soon?”

“Can I borrow Myfanwy and Angharad or what?”

“Depends. Where are you taking them?”

“Just for a spot of wild Dementor catching,” Narcissa replied bluntly. She rolled up her sleeve. Her black tattoo was moving on her arm, roiling and slithering angrily. “Now that we’ve been summoned, the Dark Mark gives us a sort of immunity to the Dementors. We are supposed to revel in the misery they inspire, after all. I’ll have you a test subject in no time.”

* * *

Harry stood in the quiet of the Ritual Room, slowly placing conjuration stones in a square all around him. There wasn’t a lot of room, but there didn’t really need to be. There were three stones on each of the four sides of the square Harry was mapping, each set about a foot apart from its neighbour. Harry took out his rune stylus and sat cross-legged at the centre of the square.

Each side would have the same combination of three runes. Harry had chosen them carefully. Uruz – for strength, power and endurance – would be the centre of the line of three. The magical force, crossing at the point where the energy lines intersected, on the spot where he was currently sat, would hold even a natural disaster still. A simple wizard like Tom Riddle wouldn’t have a prayer of physical or spiritual escape.

Hagalaz came next, for protection, success against difficult situations and breaking unhealthy patterns. Harry rather thought that Voldemort trying to kill him for his entire life was a pattern he’d quite like to see the end of. Elhaz was the third rune stone, to solidify the strength and protection Harry was building. He finished his careful carving, cast his magic into the stones with his wand, then flicked a spell at them.

And a cage of pure, silvery-white magic shot up all around him. He could feel its power, he knew it was ready to house the prisoner it was designed for. Harry cancelled his spell non-verbally and the magic bars dissipated away. There was just one more rune. Harry drew it onto the dark floor tiles between the stones with his stylus. Then he added more magic to it, and stepped away carefully.

“Eihwaz…the Death Rune. Nice choice.”

Harry spun quickly, his wand snapping to his fingertips on reflex, pulsing with his magical potency as it did so. Neville Longbottom jumped back from the sparks which touched his cheeks. “Nev…you should know that sneaking up on me might land you a broken bone or two. What the hell are you playing at?”

“Sorry, I didn’t think I needed to knock these days,” Neville whispered in fearful reply, as Harry holstered his wand.

Harry just frowned at him. “I’m a military grade mage, Nev…you always need to knock.”

“So noted,” said Neville. “We’re still sticking to the plan then? Even though we’ve de-magicked Tom Riddle?”

Harry looked at him darkly. “I’m not known for taking things lightly, am I? I don’t trust Dumbledore, and I don’t even want to tell you what I think about Gellert bloody Grindelwald. Dumbledore lied to me, duped me, manipulated me. I wont believe Tom Riddle is a Squib until I see that surprised look on his face, when The Elder Wand doesn’t channel a spell at me. Dumbledore’s word isn’t good enough for me. I half think I should be designing this cage for his soul, not Riddle’s.”

“Harry…”

“I’m serious,” Harry replied. “It’s not about me anymoreNev. None of this is. I’ve come to understand that in the last week. Since my mind planes closed I’ve realised that much of my anger, my rage, it’s not to do with me. With Riddle, yes, he killed my parents and tried to kill me. Twice. But after that it wasn’t just me he was threatening. It was her…my Hermione. Directly.”

“How so?”

“She was a mere room away from Riddle when he was body sharing with Quirrell, a mirror away from death at the hands of the basilisk,” Harry explained. “Add to that a years’ worth of lessons with Barty Crouch Jnr. Don’t even get me started on her near-death experience at the Ministry in fifth year. Then, in sixth year, Dumbledore knew all about what that cunt Malfoy was up to…and he did nothing. He let Death Eaters into the school and Hermione could have easily been in their line of fire. Dumbledore was at fault for all of the above.

“Draco was a dangerous blood supremacist. Always was. And he regularly suggested Hermione should be killed for her blood status. And Dumbledore never pulled him for it, and he wasn’t exactly shy about that view. That makes them both beyond redemption in my book. The only reason Draco didn’t turn me in, when we were captured and taken to Malfoy Manor while hunting the Horcruxes, was because he was basically a coward back then, and didn’t want to get his hands dirty.

“He still returned to Hogwarts and tried to find Ravenclaw’s lost diadem, didn’t he? Even his own mother admits he was beyond forgiveness, once he killed for the first time. She still wont tell me the details of that, but it must have been pretty horrendous. And I saw, in Hermione’s memories, how often he threatened to torture and murder her, as his own personal treat, once he was made the head of Section Seven. Damn how I’d have loved to watch him burn in that fire and not gone back to save him…but then, Narcissa wouldn’t have helped me, I suppose. Funny how these things work out, isn’t it?”

“And I can see what you mean about the other stuff, too,” said Neville. “Dumbledore stored the Philosopher’s Stone at Hogwarts knowing that someone was trying to steal it, thus bringing danger to all the kids. He should have known that Hagrid’s dog and giant spiders couldn’t have killed someone after Petrifying them. And he hired Crouch and should have prepared you better about Riddle trying to rape your mind. Yeah, maybe we should try and summon his spirit and banish it too…to wherever you’re going to send Riddle’s. Where is that, again?”

“There’s a dimension beyond the Veil,” said Harry. “But it can only be accessed from that side. It’s basically a prison. There is, unfortunately, no way to completely destroy life energy once it’s been created in the universe. This is the next best thing. Riddle will be trapped in a pocket of nothing. Empty space. Unable to move, see, hear…anything. Eventually, his consciousness will just…stop. His energy will be forever dormant, but it will be a maddening and excruciating experience.”

“How long will that take?”

“Merlin reckons a few thousand years should do it. He’s going to take care of Riddle’s fate once he reaches the other side.”

Neville’s jaw dropped open. “Fuck me, Harry…I’m glad I’m on your team!”

Harry smirked. “I’m glad you are, too. I think what I have planned for Ron is worse, but it’s all subjective I suppose.”

“Shall I even ask?”

“It’s not certain yet,” said Harry. “I have to okay it with Hermione. Let’s just say it’s a toss up between an eternity of torture and agony, or an eternity of soul-draining nothingness. Riddle might just yet have the better deal.”

“And how long until you can enact this delicious revenge on Ron?” asked Neville, grinning darkly. “I want to book a front row seat.”

“Oh don’t be mistaken, brother, this isn’t revenge,” said Harry. “It’s a reckoning. I’ve had my revenge, if you like. I’ve beaten the Big Happy Weasley Family conspiracy by falling in love with, and marrying, Hermione. Their biggest crime against me was trying to prevent that. It’s functionally equivalent to defying the true course of nature as far as I’m concerned.

“No, this is about answering for his wrongs against Hermione, herself…and from the moment he threw his first punch at her, he condemned himself to an eternity of hurt. He committed the crime…now he has to do the time…I just need to learn how to trap him in a little device that will make him relive his most painful moments over and over and over again…”

Neville’s eyes went wide. “You’re going to trap his soul…in a modified Time-Turner?”

Harry grinned darkly and reached into his shirt and drew out the instrument that hung there, the hourglass hanging suspended between the golden hoops. It looked harmless, was in fact one of the most dangerous magical artefacts every created, and very soon Harry hoped to turn it into the worst prison ever conceived. A prison there would be no Weasley-ing out of.

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