Training and Confrontations


Story Summary:
A sprawling tale set in many places and dimensions, as Harry finds himself, finds his abilities grow, and trains for that final confrontation with Voldemort. A H/L/Hr tale, with N/G, R/T, and a paternal Ron.

Chapter 15

Chapter Summary:
A sprawling tale set in many places and dimensions, as Harry finds himself, finds his abilities growing, and trains for that final confrontation with Voldemort. A H/L/Hr tale, with N/G, Remus/T, and a paternal Ron. Part II continues on a different world.
Author's Note:
Hermione and Peter make decisions which affect their lives.

Chapter XV
Back in London

"Well, what brings my expert back here so unexpectedly?" Voldemort asked, a cruel caress in his voice.

"I have come to report an interesting development, Master," Julian said.

Only Voldemort could feel the fear in his voice. He thought a moment and asked, "Has Number Twelve. . . . Yes, Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place as reappeared."

"Yes, Master."

"And in addition to that?"

"I was left a note, Master, by Dumbledore himself."

"Really? And how do you explain this?"


"How do you know it was Dumbledore? If you saw him, why didn't he capture you?"

"He left a written message, Master, but he also left a verbal one on the Muggle equipment."

"Ah. The verbal message was?"

Julian flushed in fear.

"Say it!" Voldemort ordered.

Julian swallowed nervously. "'I see I need not have written the note I left. I must admit I am quite surprised that any of you would have any knowledge of Muggle surveillance and recording equipment, let alone equipment this current. In any event, we have left Number Twelve. I would not try to enter it without its new proper owner. Under the conditions of Sirius Black's old will, Peter Pettigrew inherits one sixth of the Black estate. If he does not care for the portion the other heirs have left him, or wishes to challenge the valuation, he has until the First of September to lodge a protest. Good morning'."

"Which means?"

"As best I can tell, exactly what he said, Master. Sirius Black made a will shortly after the Potter boy was born. The will was officially read on the morning of the First of August. Pettigrew's share is publically listed as Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place and contents."

"I see. Did you bring this letter?"

"No, Master."

"Why not?"

"I wasn't sure if there might have been a tracking charm or something else which you might not wish near you, Master."

"So, you at least continue to think. Was this all the Old Man left?"

"There was a magical key, Master, presumably to the front door."

"Which you also left?"

"Yes, Master, until you command otherwise."

"Very wise, my little thinker." Voldemort turned to one of the Death Eaters. "Bring Wormtail."

The Death Eater bowed and left.

"I am certain the Old Man valued everything he wanted to leave in that house at its highest reasonable value, and everything else at its lowest, but did not actually cheat. It is possible, of course, that he also left some traps. He may also have some secret surveillance, just to see who is foolish enough to show up."

Voldemort thought, and decided that it wasn't worth sending anyone but Wormtail. If he did not stumble onto any traps, then perhaps Julian and then Severus could inspect the place. 'No,' he thought, looking around, and saw that Pettigrew wasn't present yet, 'that could work, but I have a better idea.' "Wormtail!"

May 17, Day 17

"Good morning," Alton told the octet after their breakfast. "I know we, and your two tutors here, have said this before, but we are most impressed at the speed of your progress. It's not as fast as it could possibly have been, but it has certainly been much faster than anyone really expected it to be."

The teens were not sure how to take that, but they all decided to take it as a compliment.

"So, for the next two weeks, we shall two hours of dueling and combat practice in the mornings, mostly combat. Our magical schools let out on the last day of May. For two weeks in early June, the older students and their slightly older peers compete in mock combat. Since they do so in teams of six, we have decided you may train for that, if you wish."

They all looked at least slightly interested in that, even Luna and Hermione.

"After lunch, you'll be getting an hour of practice in various mental disciplines, and then you'll have two hours to practice flying." Hermione wrinkled her nose. "Yes, Hermione, you need to practice as well, although at a different level. You never know when you might have to fly, and it's best to keep in practice."

That night, despite extra time in the sauna, Hermione and Neville were both walking stiffly towards their rooms after dinner. "The cushioning charms here aren't quite as good as the ones back home, are they?" Ron asked.

"Why aren't you sore?" Hermione demanded.

"I think because we're all more used to flying," Harry said.

"Luna doesn't fly like you lot, and none of you have flown much since we got here!"

"We have more than you have," Luna said simply, "and I imagine I shall be on the tender side in the morning."

"Hope you feel better by tomorrow afternoon," Ron said with a smile before ducking into his room to prepare for that night's romp with the maid. Hermione frowned at the closed door, and by the time she turned around, she saw Ginny helping Neville into her room.

"Good night," Harry said, kissing Luna on the lips and Hermione on her cheek. He went into his room as well.

Hermione looked puzzled. "I seem to be missing something."

"Grab your night things and change into your slippers," Luna said. "Alicia said we could use the hot room tonight."

"For what?"

"How are your upper arms?"

"Not too bad, especially compared to my thighs and backside."

"Well, we shall sit in the hot room and then you shall massage my flying muscles, and I shall massage yours."


Luna knew an argument that would convince Hermione. "It's either that, or making some of the maids work into the night."

"Alright. Let's go."

May 18, Day 18

Harry woke up early, as usual. Unusually, he was alone in his bed. He did his early morning stretches, and took the opportunity preen a little in front of the mirror.

This was normally very out of character for Harry Potter. He had been very shy until that summer. Living with Luna for a month had taught him not to be shy around himself or her. Two weeks of group saunas and sharing a bedroom with both Luna and Hermione had taken care of nearly all of the remaining shyness. Add in his now-perfect eyesight and nearly two months of hard exercise, and Harry was curious.

Harry was still short. Ten years and four additional summers of under-feeding had had their effect there. Harry was now perhaps a shade under five foot eight. He had been thin, at times almost emaciated, with relatively long legs and arms, his entire life. He had regained all of his lost weight by the time he had gone to the Burrow, and now, for the first time in his life, admired some actually defined muscles in his legs, arms, and chest.

'Well,' he thought, 'I'm never going to be a muscle-man, but no more 'ickle Harry' either.' He slipped on his running clothes, and then peeked into Luna's bedroom on his way out. Luna's bed hadn't been slept in, which meant she had spent the night with Hermione. Harry smiled ruefully. Luna was determined to have her way with both Hermione and himself, and he acknowledged that he was far too besotted by her, and by Hermione to a lesser degree, to even try and put up a fight. If Harry had learned one thing that summer, it was that no matter how odd Luna's ideas were, they usually worked out.

"Good morning," Luna said simply about half an hour later.

Hermione froze under the sheet.

"There's no reason to be shy," Luna said.

"But we . . . we. . . ."

"Yes, we did. Several times, in fact. No reason to be shy or ashamed about that, at least with me, or with Harry."


"There is no reason to be worried," Luna said, hugging the suddenly shy and frightened Hermione. "For now, we shall just go back to the usual sleeping arrangements. Instead of Harry and my self getting together before you come to sleep with us, you and Harry will just switch off for now."

"But. . . ."

"I really don't think you're ready to go as far with Harry, or with Harry and myself, as we went last night. . . ."

"No! Oh no, I am NOT ready for that. . . ."

"But you are interested."

Hermione squeaked a soft affirmative.

"Then there's no problem, is there?" Luna kissed Hermione firmly and passionately, which, after a moment, Hermione returned. "We need to dress for breakfast."

Luna left to get dressed a few minutes later, leaving a very confused if satiated Hermione laying on the bed. "What have I let myself in for?" Hermione asked herself.

The rest of the two weeks went very much as planned. The Dumbledores, Remus, and Tonks mostly drilled the sextet as a combat unit. Ron was still in some ways the most unpredictable and erratic. In mock combat, at least, it was good to have something of a berserker out front. Beyond that, they tested out various combinations. For mock combat, they and their trainers took some time and decided that a multi-tier approach worked best: for the moment, Ron would be in front; Harry and Neville acted as a second rank; Luna and Hermione would supply cover as the back rank. Ginny would stand between Harry and Neville and Hermione and Luna, acting as she thought best.

In an actual, life-or-death situation, there seemed to be a better choice: Harry and Ginny in the first rank, with Ron positioned behind them ready to charge out as needed. Depending on the situation, the three in the back rank ready to provide cover in whatever direction it was most called for. The group also practiced various defensive combinations, and here the best arrangement seemed to place Hermione, Neville, Luna, and Ginny in a square (with Ginny taking on the most fire and Hermione the least), with Ron and Harry providing firepower from the center.

Still, they practiced any combination any of the group or their trainers could think of, since there of course was no way of predicting what might actually happen in a firefight. This also allowed each of the six to have some idea of how everyone in the group was most likely to react in any given situation.

This was, of course, the main reason why the sextet was being encouraged to attend the mock combat contests in June. There was no doubt in Albus Dumbledore's mind that Harry would have to face Voldemort. For Harry to win, he would need his friends around him to help pare down the odds against him. Many others -- the other Weasleys, Moody, Remus, Tonks, Dumbledore -- also hoped that they would be with Harry and his group when that time came.

There was no way of knowing what that situation might be like. Based on the previous five years, however, there was a good chance that Harry's closest friends would be with him. Dumbledore also had hopes that many of the Hogwarts students outside Harry's immediate circle would rally to him, as they had the year before to form the DA.

That, of course, remained to be seen.

If the DA did reform, Harry would not only be in a better position to lead it, but he would have five able lieutenants to assist in the training and, if necessary, to lead the students into combat.

There had been no real open battles in the First War against Voldemort. The Death Eaters had overwhelmed targets and had used terrorist tactics to attack larger groups. Should the war continue for some time, Dumbledore wanted as many students as possible to really be prepared, unlike during the first war. And, should Voldemort be foolish enough to attack the school, Dumbledore wanted an overwhelming response to be prepared.

Harry wanted that as well.

Back in London

'Of all the disgusting, stupid, things I've ever had to do,' Peter Pettigrew thought to himself, 'this has to rank somewhere near the top.' He felt his left wrist twinge, and knew that there were many worse things he had done. Still, this night had to be in the top five percent somewhere.

He was rather thankful that Grimmauld Place was dark. He hoped that the Master was right, and that Dumbledore and his Order would not expect Peter to show up so soon after being notified of his 'inheritance.'

Peter decided to just get the task over with. If this was a trap, then it would be over even more quickly. He went up the front stairs, and pressed the magical key to the lock. The door swung open. Peter scurried in, and he jumped when the door slammed behind him.

"Who is there!" a nasty voice demanded, making Peter jump again. "Who is there, I say! What kind of scum are you? Muggle-lover? Mudblood? Half-breed? Some disgusting dark creature?"

Peter lit his wand, and saw it was a painting. "Mrs. Black?"

"YOU! What are YOU doing here! Kreacher! Kreacher!"

"Mistress is calling? What does Mistress. . . . Who are you?"

"This is the vile beast that led our idiot son into that trap! Just when we got through with that other scum, YOU show up! Why are you here?"

"I have been informed by the executors your Sirius' will that I have inherited. . . ."

"NO! This is MY home!"

Peter had proven many times over the previous sixteen years that he had little of the courage that a Gryffindor should have. Still, this was a painting. "Portraits may not inherit property."

"He speaks the truth, Mistress. Kreacher . . . Kreacher is his, now."

Peter looked at the deformed elderly elf, and sneered. "That's right. You're the elf who betrayed Sirius to the Master."

"So, you DO directly serve the Dark Lord!"

"I do," Peter admitted. He turned back on Kreacher. "So, what traps did the last occupants leave?"

"Kreacher knows of none. Kreacher was told to give the new master this letter, but Kreacher does not remember who told him." The filthy elf held out a thick, grimy envelope.

Peter hesitated, but opened it.

Dear Peter:

I hope you do not mind my addressing you so familiarly. You stand, for at least fourth time in your life, at a major crossroads. The first time, you chose to follow Voldemort instead of your friends. No doubt, you lied to yourself at first, saying that what you were doing wouldn't hurt anyone. The second, you betrayed James, Lily, and Harry, and by extension, Sirius. Did you tell yourself that James and Lily would be strong enough to stand up to your Master?

They were, although they died for their stand.

When Harry spared your life, you ran straight to your Master You brought the monster back to life, knowing that sooner or later he would kill you.

Now, you can abandon your Master.

There are no new real traps here, although some of the traps and evils left over from the House of Black remain, and I regret that there is quite a mess left over from the hippogriff Sirius kept in a bedroom. The only trick is that if you touch your wand to this parchment and say portus, this will bring you, and only you, to me.

I cannot ask you to become a spy, although we could use you. We both know that is unlikely to work. I cannot offer forgiveness. What I offer you is a way out. I do this only to deprive the enemy of a servant in an easy way. You will not be hurt. You will certainly not be killed.

If you decide to stay with your Master, never lie to yourself again. You are with Voldemort because you wish to be.

It is up to you to decide.

Albus Dumbledore.

Peter walked around the front corridor for some time. He had a headache. Finally, he lit a lamp and sat on the stairs to think.

He had often wondered over the previous sixteen years how he had found himself in this situation. In the end, he had usually decided that it had been the Sorting Hat's fault. He had not really belonged in Gryffindor. If he hadn't been sorted into Gryffindor, he never would have been friends with James, Sirius, or Remus. If he had never been friends with them, he never would have become directly involved with the fight against his Master. If he had never fought the Master, he might have been ignored by the Master, and never forced to betray James and Lily. Then he would not have had to cut off a finger, live for a rat for some dozen years, and then cut his own hand off.

Yes. It was the Sorting Hat's fault, but that did not help him one bit with his new problem.

He did not like serving the Dark Lord. He was certainly near the bottom of the pecking order. No one, not even Lucius Malfoy the previous spring, dared command or abuse him (other than the Master, of course), but none feared him. He had power over no one. On those rare occasions, when a little booty or a Muggle woman was handed out, he had been given nothing. That near-squib Julian Malfoy was treated better than he was, a full-fledged wizard.

There was nothing binding him to the Master except his own fear.

So it basically came down to a simple question for Peter. Was Voldemort likely to win? If so, then he would be better off where he was. Peter remembered with a shudder what had happened when the Master had caught up with Igor Karkaroff the previous month. That episode had lasted on-and-off for several days, and when the Master was finished, there had not been enough left of the former Death Eater to make it worth leaving the remains out to be found as a warning.

If Voldemort was likely to lose, this was also likely to be his last chance to escape being executed, or locked into the depths of some prison. He was still likely to be sent to a prison of some sort, but nothing as bad as he would get in the future, if he lived so long.

Peter made his decision.