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 35

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 III (the autumnal term until New Year's Day) ends with this chapter (Chapter 35). Part IV (Chapters 35-44) goes from the start of the New Year through the end of June.
Author's Note:
As Harry fully recovers, he receives a surprising message, a surprise visit, and flings Snape around, while his friends discuss safety issues and Ron gets picked up.

Chapter XXXV
Friday, December 27, 1996

Harry was sitting alone in the great hall a little after 11:00 am, working on more of his backlog of work and waiting for lunch. Largely thanks to Hermione, he had not fallen too far behind in his school work during the end of term. Still, he had plenty of work to do over the holiday. This morning, he was working to finish his Business homework.

Harry's attention was drawn to a single unknown owl flying into the great hall. It landed in front of him, and stuck its right leg at him.

Harry resisted the nearly automatic response to take the note. He did a quick revealing spell, which annoyed the bird but which showed that there were no spells on the note. Only then did Harry take the note and give the bird a treat from his pocket.

There were two sheets of paper. The first note was very short and was written in very poor penmanship: The Master's Townhouse is at 12 Grimmauld Place.

Instantly, Harry's memories of the Black House fleshed out in ways he had not been able to access since the previous summer.

The other note was longer, and much more neatly written: Potter:

Please do not give or show this note to anyone other than the Headmaster. He will know what to do with it. At the time, I was sorry I was unable to meet you last summer, but now I am glad I missed you by a few days.

Harry was not certain if the note was actually from Julian Malfoy or not, but he figured that was a problem for the Headmaster, not for him. Harry sighed and put his holiday work away. He needed to see the Headmaster.

"Well, Harry; I suppose you understand whom these notes suggest is behind this?"

Harry shrugged. "The first note would be from the Secret Keeper, probably Wormtail, to one of the Death Eaters. The second, the sender, would be Julian Malfoy." Harry did not want to mention it, but he thought the handwriting on the first note was a bit like Wormtail's in the Marauder's Map.

"Exactly." Dumbledore frowned. "I wonder if it is from him? Pettigrew might have tried to disguise his handwriting. Pettigrew is, by the way, the Secret Keeper."

Harry thought about that. "You know, sir, Muggle law enforcement have hand writing experts."

"So they do. I shall send these, along with some examples of Malfoy's and Pettigrew's writing, off for examination. That way we shall know if this was from Pettigrew, Malfoy, or some other Death Eater."

"You might want to photocopy the first note," Harry suggested. "After all, you may want to reveal the location to other people."

Dumbledore smiled. "Also very true. Well thought, Harry." Only the original would open the Fidelius Secret.

Harry merely sat and looked at the Headmaster. "Was there something else, Harry?"

"Yes, sir. First of all, did the aurors find Voldemort's mountain hideout?"

"Yes, they did. Late last night. Six Death Eaters and three others were captured. They were moving the last of Voldemort's supplies."

"You weren't going to mention it, sir?"

Dumbledore smiled warily. "They are still under interrogation, and I do not report to you, Harry. As one of the twins pointed out to me last summer, you are a field commander, I am the commander-in-chief."

"And you aren't going to let me in on the attack on Headquarters."

"I would prefer you not be in any pitched battles before your birthday," Dumbledore reminded Harry. "We haven't fully tested you magic since the attack, after all. If necessary, perhaps we will risk it as early as the Easter holiday, but I hope that will not be necessary."

"When is Easter this year?"

"The Thirtieth of March," Dumbledore replied.

"About ninety-three days," Harry said thoughtfully

"Not all that long a time," Dumbledore pointed out. "I want Voldemort defeated as much as anyone, Harry. Just remember, you are our only chance. If we had three or five or a dozen chances, and you were the best chance, it would still be difficult to send you to fight that soon."

"And?" Harry asked, seeing hidden layers to Dumbledore's thoughts, but unable to see what they were.

"And I am old, Harry. Tell me, does the name Vittorio Nebbiolo mean anything to you?"

Harry frowned. History of Magic had been one of his weakest subjects. "Didn't he have something to do with a new set of regulations for Muggle-Wizard interactions in the early 1800s?"

"True," Dumbledore agreed. "The Muggles in Europe had gone through a period called the Enlightenment, which was alas followed by the Wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon, and the impact of their Industrial Revolution was starting to be felt then as well. Nebbiolo was the leader of a movement to rewrite the regulations. The reason why he was the leader was because he was the most powerful wizard of the period, at least in Europe. He defeated a very powerful Dark Wizard in 1799, when he was just thirty, and he died helping to end the so-called Knight's War, or the First War of Grindelwald, in early 1918."


"So, Voldemort is the most powerful Dark Wizard of the last thousand years, Harry. He has been far from the only one. In many ways Grindelwald, although personally less powerful, caused much greater harm than Voldemort has to date, but neither he nor Voldemort were all that unique. I am too old to lead, let alone fight, the next war, whenever that happens. It might be twenty years from now, it might be a hundred and twenty. If the latter, I shall be long gone."

Harry sighed. "And I won't be able to let it slide."

"It would be quite uncharacteristic of you," Dumbledore said. "Remember what your father said. You will lose some of your special power when you defeat Voldemort. How much depends on how much you exercise your powers before that event. Should you defeat Voldemort in March, I doubt if you will end up any more powerful than I. Meaning no disrespect, Harry, but even if you were to turn out more powerful than I ever was, you do not have as wide a range of magical knowledge, nor the interest in acquiring it."

"That's true," Harry admitted.

"So, while a battle at the end of March is possible, I would prefer to delay it at least until early August for a number of good reasons. Does knowing that make the wait easier or harder to bear?"

Harry thought hard about that. "A little easier, I think."

"Then I would apologize for not telling you about the cavern Voldemort was hiding in, except for the fact I was planning on telling you after dinner, when I shall inform Alastor and Remus."

"Oh. . . ." Harry said in a small voice.

"Do not let that bother you," Dumbledore went on, "I have kept information from you before. I cannot blame you for being suspicious at times."

"Thank you," Harry said drily.

"Was there anything else, Harry?"

Harry gestured at the notes. "Could these be a trap?"

Dumbledore nodded. "It is certainly possible. The timing suggests that either the attacks caused someone to decide to cover themselves, or that Voldemort hopes to lure us, and you, into Grimmauld Place for some reason. Another good reason not to rush in."

"Yes, sir. Thank you." Harry stood up, but halted. "Was there something else, sir?"

"I was just thinking, you have never inquired about how your lifting of the Dark Mark worked on Professor Snape."

"No, I haven't," Harry acknowledged. "You know, come to think of it, he and Mister Filch were two of the four members of the staff who never came to see me, and the other two sent me a card and a carrot."

"A carrot?"

"Hagrid said it was a sign of friendship, from a centaur."


"Even the other three House ghosts visited."

"Really?" Dumbledore asked, a bit surprised. "That is quite an honor."

"I guess," Harry said. "The Grey Lady didn't say anything, of course, but she smiled at Luna, Hermione and me. The Friar was rather . . . what was the term Hermione used. . . ? Oh, I remember, 'ribald'."

"No doubt," Dumbledore acknowledged.

"The Baron stopped by to tell me that Peeves was under strict orders never to bother me again, which I thought was very nice of him."

"Very," Dumbledore agreed. "Just in case you are curious, Professor Snape's scar does twinge on occasion, but it is still at worst basically dormant. I believe it is actually harmless, but it does not hurt to be on guard."

"That's good to hear, sir. I think I need to catch lunch before it's over."

"Very good, Harry." He hesitated, and then handed Harry the note disclosing 12 Grimmauld Place. "Please return this here tonight. I shall be showing it to several people at that time. You may then take it again, as long as you return it after dinner on New Year's night."

"Thank you, Professor."

After lunch, Harry took Hermione, Luna, and Ginny up to his dorm room, where Neville was waiting (Ron was at the Burrow until at least New Year's Eve). Harry explained to them what had happened, and showed them the note.

"Do you really think it could be Pettigrew?" Neville asked.

"I'd like to think so," Harry said, "but I rather doubt it. I'll see what Remus says tonight."

"I'm just glad the Headmaster is giving it back to you tonight, so you can show Ron when he gets back," Ginny said.

"True," Hermione agreed. "Even though he naturally made the choice to spend time with Sirius, he wouldn't be happy being left out of this."

"What do you think about it?" Harry asked Luna.

"If you mean the notes, I believe they are at least as likely to be a trap as they are a Death Eater betraying his Master. If you mean Ron, I agree with Hermione." She frowned. "I really don't believe Voldemort is going to confront you directly if he can help it. You damaged him far too easily last October."

"That's probably why the Order's intelligence indicates he has had a difficult time recruiting more Death Eaters," Hermione said. Harry gave her an inquiring look. Hermione shrugged. "I asked. You can't always wait for someone to volunteer the information."

"True," Harry said ruefully.

"So," Ginny said, "the biggest risk is someone walking up to Harry and stabbing him again."

"Or poisoning his pumpkin juice, or anything similar," Hermione agreed.

The five sat glumly. Finally, Neville asked, "Do you think we can at least rule out someone acting of their own total free will?"

"Probably, but not definitely," Hermione said.

"If Voldemort had someone in the school working for him, wouldn't he have sent someone in to kill me while I was so weak from the poison?" Harry asked.

"You were in a private room," Neville pointed out.

"How well guarded was it?" Harry asked.

"Nothing overly obvious," Hermione admitted.

"I think we can eliminate any girl Fourth year and above," Luna said thoughtfully. "I'm sure there must be several ways they could have volunteered to donate milk and then foul it enough to kill Harry by the second or third week."

"True," Hermione admitted. "I think we have to be more worried about an attack from someone under the Imperius than anything else."

"How long does someone stay under the Imperius?" Neville asked.

"Besides all the other factors, it depends on what the person cursed is asked to do," Ginny said. She had studied all the information on types of possession she could find over the last few years. "I bet Colin could have easily been made to kill most people. It was only because of his crush on Harry that he managed to fight it to the extent he did."

"Unless the person really dislikes me, I'd say three days would be the longest most people could be made to attack me in any way," Harry said. "You can keep someone doing their everyday tasks, or have them just sitting around, like Crouch made his son do for all those years. Even then, you have to renew it every ten days or so."

"Going back to Colin, though," Ginny said thoughtfully, "I bet even now he could be made to drop some poison into Harry's goblet, thinking it was a love potion or something. And the same is true of about three-quarters of the female population of Hogwarts, myself included."

"And probably a tenth of the male population," Luna added.

"Even so, that couldn't last as long as a week," Harry said. "By then, I would hope someone would have noticed some odd behavior."

"So, what can we go about it?" Neville asked.

"I have been pondering that question," Dumbledore said from the doorway. "As I came to question what you might all be doing here, where witches, especially a witch from Ravenclaw, are not supposed to be, I came up with a possible solution. I am loath to employ it. Still, I shall ask you, and the staff, for their opinions. If you or they can come up with something less intrusive, I would much appreciate it."

"May I guess?" Luna asked.

"By all means."

"You, Professor Snape, and Harry can use Legilimency, and I can use my empathic abilities. Each student and staff member who has been absent over the break, even Ronald, would have to be scanned. So far as I know, there is no other sure way to detect someone under the Imperius."

"There are several potions, but in many ways those are even more intrusive," Dumbledore stated. "Professors McGonagall, Lupin, and Flitwick are accomplished enough in their resistence not to be tested. Believe it or not, so is Professor Moody."

"I thought he was under the Imperius for almost a year!" Ginny exclaimed.

"He was imprisoned," Dumbledore acknowledged. "However, he mostly stunned, not under the Imperius."

"That's good to know, anyway," Harry said. "It's going to be unpopular."

"True," Hermione said, "but if you do everyone, it should cause less trouble than if we were being selective in any way."

"Weren't any of the students immune, like Harry was?" Ginny asked.

"While there are a number of students with some resistance, including yourself, only Harry and Miss Lovegood are likely to fully resist Voldemort."

"No offense, but can you allow Harry to do any of the scanning?" Hermione asked. "Wouldn't that just open him to attack?"

Harry winced, but could not argue the point.

"That is an excellent point," Dumbledore agreed. "I regret to say that this means no more Hogsmeade weekends."

"The students will go stir-crazy," Ginny protested.

"Especially the Fifth and Seventh years," Dumbledore agreed. "Any suggestions?"

"Valentine's Day is a Friday," Ginny offered. "How about an informal dance?"

"What about a different type of feast, followed by a dance for those interested in the great hall, and some sort of party for the younger students?" Hermione modified.

"What sort of feast?" Dumbledore asked, curious.

"I've been talking to the elves," Hermione said, "and they all say that the way they generally enjoy expressing themselves the most is through cooking. They enjoy learning new dishes. There are all sorts of fun things they could cook that most Hogwarts students haven't tried: French and Italian and Greek and Indian and North African and. . . ."

"Yes, I understand the direction you're going in," Dumbledore said drily. He pondered for a few minutes. "Yes, those are good ideas. I shall ask a few people what they think, but I like those suggestions. Now, please go down to the common room at the least," Dumbledore instructed. "If you wish to, remember we can use more ideas on protecting Harry here once all the students return." He left the room with a swirl of his robes.

"You had a thought before the headmaster showed up," Luna said to Harry. "What was it?"

"I'm cleared to use magic again," Harry said. "How would you five like to test me for the next few days?"

Tuesday, December 31, 1996

"I thought Ron was coming back tonight," Harry grumbled as he took his seat at the single dining table.

"He was," Ginny agreed in a low voice, "but he's having fun playing with Sirius. He'll be back for lunch tomorrow."

Harry sighed. "I guess I can't begrudge him that," Harry had to admit.

At that moment, Dumbledore came into the great hall. "Good evening," he said. "For those of you interested in seeing in the New Year, Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes have donated a fireworks display which we will start at midnight. We also have some non-alcoholic sparkling cider. If you are interested, bundle up and be out on the lawn near the lake at Eleven forty-five."

"This is nice," Hermione said, as she snuggled next to Harry's left side. She had crocheted an afghan in Gryffindor and Ravenclaw colors, and she, Harry, and Luna were sitting on a bench, wrapped in it. All the other students and staff were near by, except for Ginny and Neville, who were setting the fireworks off.

The bottles of cider were circulating, and shortly before midnight, everyone was ready. Dumbledore signaled the time, and the first magical fireworks shot up into the sky. As most of the students drank their toasts, Hermione, Harry, and Luna shared a three-way kiss.

If any of the students saw it, none ever mentioned it.

Wednesday, January 1, 1997

When the sextet sat down for lunch the next day, Tracy Davis sat down next to Ron, asking, "Do you mind?"

"No," Ron said, "go ahead."

"Was that little boy your younger brother, or a nephew," she asked Ron and Ginny.

"A cousin our parents adopted," Ginny said, before anyone else could say anything. "I must say, it came as a really surprise to everyone." Down the table, Malfoy rolled his eyes, but wisely said nothing. He had heard some interesting conversations, but kept those to himself.

"He's our godson," Hermione said proudly.

"What's his name?"

"Sirius," Harry said, seeing Malfoy wince at the name.

"Well, I must say, he was adorable," Tracy said. "And all of you were so nice to him. Who was the woman?"

"A Squib cousin," Ginny answered. "She had been taking care of him for a while." The conversation went on about Sirius in general terms.

During lunch, Tracy invited Ron to go ice skating. A small shallow off-shoot of the lake was used by the students for ice skating. Ron accepted, and the pair went off before most of the students were even finished. For once, Ron was not the last to leave the table.

"What just happened?" Hermione asked, surprised.

"For whatever reason, Tracy has always liked Weasley, err, Ron," Millicent said. "At least since the Yule Ball, and probably before. You can imagine how much chaff she has gotten for that over the years."

Most of the non-Slytherins grimaced at the thought.

"Since you and he were dancing around each other, and since some of us would have made her life a living hell before this year, she never approached him," Millicent went on. "Since you're involved with Harry here to some degree, she figured, why not?"

"Is she going to be bothered about it?" Harry asked.

"Not by anyone in our House," Draco answered. "I think it shows bad taste on her part, but then, I dated Pansy for three years. I won't bother them. Will you?"

"No," Harry said firmly. "I have to admit, I don't know her well enough to like or dislike her."

"She takes Transfiguration, Charms, Potions, Runes, Arithmancy, and the Business course," Hermione said. "Her father's is an old Welsh wizarding family, her maternal grandmother was Muggle-born. Her father and paternal grandfather work in the co-op that makes butterbeer, and she has three younger siblings. The next oldest, a brother I think, starts next year."

The three remaining Slytherins at the table stared at her. "What?" Hermione asked. "I like knowing about the people around me. What's wrong with that?"

Draco shook his head. "I'm sure I know more about Davis the person than you do, but you know more about her background than I do."

"Hermione always pays attention," Harry said.

"Granger, you really are a know-it-all," Draco said in a slightly admiring voice.

"And a very cute one at that," Harry added. "Shall we go practice hexes some more?"

The group grimaced. Harry's power had made another jump after his recovery, and he was making short work of his friends and fellow students.