Harry stood there, breathing in fits and gasps, sweat dripping from his damp hair. He stared into space, where Voldemort had just disappeared from. His heart thrummed heavily in his ears, his whole body aching. Slowly, he sagged from his feet to his knees, his charred wand loose in his grip as recent events flooded back to him.
The atrium in which he stood, the atrium of the Ministry of Magic, was a wreck. The statue, laughingly referred to as the Fountain of Magical Brethren, was in pieces. There wasn’t a piece bigger than a quaffle anywhere in sight. The fountain was empty, water spilled over one end of the hall, the half that had been frozen into rapidly melting ice. Every window of every office facing the hall was shattered, the remains spread throughout the hall as sand. Headmaster Dumbledore was picking himself up off the floor against one wall, where the Priori Incantatem had dumped his ass when he had tried to interfere. There was a crowd near the now unblocked floos, most still in nightclothes. And at the heart of a circle of solitude, kneeling alone and breathing raggedly, wrapped in vibrant blue flames, was Harry Potter.
It had seemed so simple, he’d been so sure. But as soon as they had made it to the Hall of Prophecy, everything had gone sideways. No Sirius. An orb, no, a prophecy, with his name on it. A dozen Death eaters. The trap Hermione had warned him of had been sprung.
He smiled slightly, crookedly, remembering the running battle. His friends had done well, even little Luna. The six of them had faced twice their number and survived. Some had been hurt. Ginny’s ankle, Ron and the brain things. But they’d persevered, made him proud, especially….
The thought shattered his world. Hermione had been hurt, unconscious. Maybe even dying. Where? Where was she?
He spun, the new energy of panic flooding his body as he started to move towards the lifts, back towards her. He ignored everything else, the crowd hovering near the floos, the calls of his name, even Dumbledore’s hand grasping at his shoulder. He had to make sure she was okay.
He reached the lifts just as one opened, and his friends spilled out, followed by Remus, Tonks, Kingsley, and Moody. Neville led them, a part of his brain noted, but all other thoughts were nothing compared to the realization that he was carrying her.
“Hermione,” his scratchy voice called, stumbling as he saw her limp. He staggered forward, missing the shocked looks in all his friends faces as he turned to them and his flame wreathed arms took Hermione from Neville, holding her in his arms. The flames wrapped themselves around her, bathing her in a warm glow, and tears flowed down his grime streaked face as he held her tightly, begging her.
“Please Hermione, Please be okay.” He sobbed, his tears soaking her blood streaked shirt. “I can’t lose you, not now. I’ve been a fool, I've missed what was right in front of me. Please don’t go. Please, stay with me. Don’t die on me. Not you, it should have been me, it should have been me.”
“She’s alive, Harry,” Neville’s voice cut through the din in his ears. Harry looked up at him, his eyes begging Neville to tell it was true. “She’s hurt but still alive. We need to get her to St. Mungo’s though.”
St. Mungo’s. He remembered. The Wizarding hospital. They could help Hermione, help her get better. He had to get her there. He had to help Hermione. He looked at Neville, nodded his understanding. He had to take Hermione to St. Mungo’s.
Gasps of shock and awe filled the atrium of the Ministry of Magic as they watched the Boy-Who-Lived, still wreathed in the ice blue flames that he’d had surrounding him as he dueled the Dark Lord, fell before his friends. He gathered the bushy haired girl in his arms, crying over her, then looked at the boy who’d been carrying her. They all saw the determination in his eyes, the desperation. He nodded to the other boy, stood up, and disappeared in a flash of fire.
The receiving ward of St. Mungo’s was nearly empty. It was still the middle of the night, after all. The Welcome Witch looked up from her magazine as she heard an unusual noise. It wasn’t the front door, nor did it sound like the floo activating. Seeing the pillar of ice blue flames in the middle of the reception area sent her adrenaline into overdrive. Hitting the emergency rune on her desk and pulling her wand, she paused before casting anything. As her brain finally caught up to her, she realized nothing was burning. In fact, the pillar was dissipating rapidly.
She gasped as most of the flames flicked away, leaving a young man carrying a young woman both shrouded in flames. The boy sagged, clearly exhausted, but still ensuring the girl was secure.
“Help her,” He rasped. “Cursed. Purple. Death eater.”
The dark haired boy fell to his knees as a triage team of mediwizards burst into the room. They levitated both teens onto stretchers, and tried to separate them. Somehow, their hands stayed stuck together, the blue white flames continuing to wrap themselves around them. Deciding care was more important than separation, they were quickly moved to the emergency ward.
“Ok, we have curse residue on her,” the lead healer announced as her scans reported back. “Looks like a weakened organ rotting curse but something is healing it as fast as the organs are deteriorating. Never seen anything like it.”
“Sir,” his assistant called. “I can’t get any read on him, everything is all over the scale. Core scan shows nearly exhausted but output is off the chart. This flame is interfering with anything definite but visually he’s just beat up.”
“Get him a General Healing Draught and leave him for now,” the lead decided. “He’s still semi conscious, what is healing her…?”
“Sir, they arrived by fire, didn’t they?”
“Yeah, what of it?”
“Maybe… pretty weak if they are.” The lead conceded, “Get the on call Curse-Breaker in here to break this curse. It was a death eater attack, according to the boy, so watch out for secondary's. Get a Blood-Replenishing Potion and an Organ-Stabilization Potion in her now, monitor every three minutes.”
“General Healing Draught applied to Potter, Used a switching spell to put it straight into his stomach, wasn’t sure if i could touch him.” the mediwitch by the boy called. “He’s mumbling something but I can't understand anything.”
“Certainly looks like him,” the mediwitch said. “Been in the paper enough I think I recognize him.”
“Carson, keep an eye on him,” The lead called, “Andi, floo Madam Pomphrey at Hogwarts, get any info on Potter from her files, anything that might explain this. And ask for anything on... what’s his girlfriends name?”
“Granger, I think sir,” the wizard next to him offered.
“Get any info on the Granger girl as well.”
It was a slow process, but as the curse on Hermione was broken, and the potions took hold, the blue flames slowly ebbed from her. It left her legs once the curse was broken, and her other arm and head as the potions took hold. The last spot on her chest that burned was across the line of the curse’s impact, the tip burning brighter as it worked its way from right hip to left shoulder. Behind that line, new pink skin emerged unblemished. Finally, three hours after they arrived, the flames departed from her left hand to Harry’s right, and they separated.
As their hands fell away, Hermione took a sudden deep breath, as if waking from a stunner. She spasmed and coughed, trying to sit up and panicking. Her eyes were wild as she looked around. She saw Harry beside her and tried to move closer to him as the healers grabbed her, trying to keep her down.
“Miss Granger! Miss Granger!” Team lead Macelroy grasped her head, forcing her eyes to his. “You’re okay, Miss Granger. You’re in St. Mungo’s.”
“Harry?” Hermione asked as she calmed slightly. “Why is he burning?”
“We don’t know Miss Granger,” Macelroy admitted, “He’s stable, we think, so we’ve been more concerned about you.”
“Me? He’s the important one,” Hermione sobbed, weakly trying to get to Harry, her energy waning from just sitting up. “He's the one you should have saved.”
“I intend to save you both Miss Granger.” He grinned at her, “Once we figure out just what is going on.”
“Sir!” The startled shout from Carson caused everyone to turn and stare. As they’d been trying to calm the distraught witch, the blue flames around Harry had increased in intensity. Now, it was almost impossible to look at him as the flames near blinded them. They could start to feel the heat from them and the bedding started to smoke. Backing away, the rising panic they felt was soothed by the lilting melody emanating from the fire. A Phoenix song filled the ward as the bed Harry was laying in caught fire. Metal twisted from the heat and a faint scream was heard, though no one could see where it came from.
Above the burning body of the boy she never told she loved, Hermione saw an inky black cloud writhe in pain before dissipating. Her brilliant mind took note of it, but was far more concerned with the immolation of the boy she loved. A perfect orb of flames burned and swirled, slowly shrinking around the body within.
Hermione gasped as a foot was exposed, then another as his legs appeared. It looked like he was now on his side, curled up. His bottom was exposed next, along with other more interesting bits, causing a slight flush from Hermione as she forced herself not to stare. A mop of black hair preceded his head, then his neck, shoulders and arms. The orb shrank and disappeared to expose the still, naked, perfectly healed and scarless form of Harry James Potter, curled up in fetal position among the burnt debris on the floor of St. Mungo’s.
Albus Dumbledore was not a happy camper. Sure, he’d been reinstated as Headmaster of Hogwarts, as well as his other positions, but that wasn’t as important as the knowledge he was missing. He had no idea what had happened in the Department of Mysteries. Well, he knew some of it. Somehow the six students had escaped Umbridge and been lured into the department. Given the damage in the Hall of Prophecy, it could be assumed the Death Eaters were trying to get to the prophecy, but had they? Had Harry?
Harry and Miss Granger were in St. Mungo’s under quarantine not even he could bypass. Reports there were filled with guesses but it seemed Harry had somehow healed Miss Granger, then did a rather amazing impersonation of a phoenix on a burning day. The pair were supposedly recovering nicely and should both be awake enough to answer questions before much longer.
Their companions were in the infirmary, under a dreamless sleep potion Poppy had administered before he could return, so any answers they had would have to wait until tomorrow morning. Well, today actually, he corrected himself as he glanced out his window at the slowly brightening horizon.
One thing was obvious however, something in Harry had changed. He recalled the shocking experience as he had tried to interrupt the duel between Tom and Harry. The young boy was doing surprisingly well, though why he was surrounded by blue flames Albus could not fathom. He had tried twice to interrupt and take Harry’s place, to put himself in the spotlight, but both times a curse (and he wasn’t sure if it was from Tom or Harry), sent him flying away from the conflict. The third time, when he tried to use the opportunity the Priori Incantatem opened to curse Tom, the blinding light had thrown him the length of the atrium and broken his arm in several places.
Why had it reacted violently to him? What had happened to Harry? And most importantly: What did he know?
The first thing Harry was conscious of was the warmth curled up against him. He could feel the itchy hospital sheets beneath him, but the warm body beside him was just as familiar. Even without looking he knew her feel, her scent. He’d know her even without her snuggled up next to him. The fire inside him burned for her.
Fire. He’d never really known why he felt such an affinity for it before, but now it had burned him clean. He saw everything that potions, charms and curses had kept him from seeing, every act against him and his Hermione. He knew the truth, now. The fire had revealed so much. He saw the set-ups from the Weasleys, Ron’s efforts to isolate him, to keep him from making other friends. He saw Dumbledore’s manipulations, his actions to keep him depressed with low self esteem while seeing the Headmaster as a great man and his personal savior. He saw through the ’measures’ to keep him safe, yet every year he faced death again. He saw the secrets Dumbledore held tight to, especially concerning the prophecy.
Finally, he saw what had been hidden from him for so long; Hermione. The moments they almost had, starting from first year. When she almost added “love” to her list of things like friendship and bravery more important than smarts. In second year, sitting by her bed, he should have realized what he felt, but fucking Dumbledore's bloody potions were already affecting him. Their fight in third year had lasted longer than it should have, and he never realized what feelings he felt when they rescued Sirius were. In fourth year, they spent so much time together learning and preparing, yet he never got the courage to ask her to the ball. Another thing to thank the damn potions and charms for.
He knew now, though. The fire within him had shown him, taught him so much. What true friendship was. What love was. And he felt it now. He felt the flame rise and pulse, cleansing the room he was in of charms as he woke.
“Harry,” she mumbled softly, then tensed. “Harry!”
“It’s okay, everything is okay now.” He pulled her close as she tried to break his ribs with her hug. He finally opened his eyes and looked around. It was not the hospital wing at Hogwarts as he’d expected, but a clean white room with a slightly more modern look. The bed they were in had been enlarged so Hermione could fit comfortably beside him and the air smelled of the clean air just after a rain. “Where are we?”
“We’re in St. Mungo’s, Harry. You brought us here after… after…”
“After the fight at the ministry,” he supplied, glancing at the door as the fire inside him flared. The fire was burning hotter, danger was coming. “Are you okay now?”
“I was fine yesterday, Harry,” she assured him, her eyes searching his as she felt the shift in him. “What’s wrong?”
“Do you trust me?” he asked evenly, rising to his feet and bringing her with him. His hand rose to point at the door, and flames engulfed it, burning without consuming it. “I mean really trust me?”
“Of course Harry,” she assured him, as the door thudded. She looked at him, and he could feel the trust and love she felt for him as she still held him tight. “Always.”
Smiling, the same ice blue flame roared to life around them. Harry took a deep breath and let it out. He began to burn brighter, the flames consuming him until suddenly Hermione was facing a brilliant blue-white phoenix. Its wings spread wide as it hovered and sang. Its soothing tones wrapping Hermione in feelings of happiness and joy, adding to her own already overwhelming feelings. Next she felt the magnificent bird’s wings wrap around her, cocooning her as the flames flashed and they vanished.
Albus Dumbledore forced the door of Harry’s room open just as the last wisp of ice blue fire dissipated, leaving him staring at an empty room.
Hermione smiled as the warmth surrounded her, like Harry himself was all around her. As quickly as it came, the light faded and she looked around at their new surroundings. She saw the flames flicker away as Harry returned to his human form. Pulling him close to hug him once more she took in the rest.
They were in a small clearing in the woods, and spring was in full bloom around them. She could hear the sounds of a small stream or brook nearby, while the sweet smell of untamed wilderness caressed her. She listened hard, yet heard no unnatural noises, no car horns or running engines. They were truly far from civilization.
“Where are we?” she asked cautiously. “I think I know this place, but I can’t place it.”
“You should, I used your memories to travel here.” Harry tensed at the admission. “Something about some Dean person maybe?”
“That’s it, this is the Forest of Dean.” Her smile grew at the memory, then it paused. “You said you used my memory?”
“Yeah. It’s part of… I suppose I should start at the beginning, shouldn’t I?” He rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment.
“It’s a good place to start,” she agreed, snagging his hand and holding it tight. “And I promise to listen before I say anything else.”
“Okay. I guess the starting point is I’m not human. Not really.” Her shocked expression was everything he expected. “I am to a point, but what happened back in the Department, that was the birth, rebirth really, of my second nature.”
“I’m not sure I understand,” she admitted.
“When you got hit, when I thought you had died, it was like the world ended for me. I saw you fall and was confronted with the possibility of not having you in my life anymore. Every bit of happiness left me as I tried to imagine what that would be like. I couldn’t imagine it, it was like you were my world, and it was dead.”
“Harry…” She leaned closer to him.
“No, let me finish.” He held her apart, “That, that feeling tried to consume me, and awoke the fire. I really can’t describe it better than that; the fire. It burns within me still, hotter and brighter every time I think of you. It consumed that fear, that dread. It showed me the love we have, at least I hope you love me too. It burned any doubts away, fed me power and light, showed me what a future with you could be. And when Neville told me you were still alive, I fought for that future.
“I had Neville keep you safe, and fought the death eaters. Defended our friends. They got hurt, and Sirius… Sirius was knocked through the archway. I will miss him, but he died to save me, battling evil, like he’d want to. I chased Bellatrix to the atrium, I wounded her before He showed up. Voldemort and I battled in the atrium until he retreated when Ministry folks came through the floos. When he left so did the last of my rage, and I took us to St. Mungos.”
“I… I guess the best I can describe it is I used the fire to keep you alive until they could help you. I succeeded, but I also used too much, gave too much,. I died and the fire consumed me. That was my true rebirth, for I am a Fireborn.”
“What’s a Fireborn?” She asked in a voice just above a whisper, emotion clouding her words.
“A Fireborn is a new phoenix.” Harry tilted her chin up. “There are no phoenix eggs, no young per say. What usually happens is a magical being is born with the fire. Once their mortal time is up, they die a natural death and upon that death they are reborn as a phoenix. Two things changed in my case . The first is my first death, when I died in Godric’s Hollow all those years ago. I was reborn as I was before, not as a phoenix. The second is I found my mate.”
“Your mate?” she whispered, her voice filled with disappointment.
“Yes, I found you,” he confirmed, smiling as her eyes widened. “That was why I could heal you, because you’re my mate. Then, because I was reborn again, everything affecting me was washed away, and I could see clearly for the first time.”
“What do you mean? What's going on Harry?”
“What I mean is, for the last fifteen years, my life has been manipulated and my mind messed with. Dumbledore placed me with my aunt and uncle to limit my access and knowledge about the wizarding world. Since the day I boarded the Hogwarts Express, I have been under compulsions and had potions affecting me, my time and efforts were manipulated, and you were placed in danger because of that.”
“What are you talking about, Harry? You’re not making any sense.”
“I suppose not,” He looked at her, and she would swear she could see a flame in the iris of his eyes, a green fire that drew her in. “I must ask again, do you still trust me?”
“I already told you Harry, Always.”
The fire in his eyes flared, and Hermione couldn’t look away. She followed every flicker and every spark. Then her mind was filling, memories not her own flooded her consciousness and she saw. She saw a young Harry meeting the Weasleys for the first time, how they seemed to be there at just the right time. How Ron claimed all the other compartments were full when she distinctly remembered passing three empty ones in her search for Neville’s toad. How in second year the twins rescued him, despite his inability to communicate with anyone. The Headmaster’s insistence on using the mandrakes they grew in the greenhouse despite their natural growing season ending in December. Bits and pieces throughout the years, all adding up to manipulations.
As these memories played, she felt fire slide across her own mind, and parts opened up. She remembered meeting the Headmaster after charms that fateful Halloween in first year, and him directing her to a bathroom to cry when she had been heading to her dorm. How he slowed her recovery from her polyjuice mishap. She felt the charm that increased any aggravation at Harry fall away as she relived their fight in the third year. The compulsion to accept her date with Krum shattered her view of fourth year. She remembered the spell hitting that stopped her from writing the DMLE about Umbridge. It all fell away and her mind felt free for the first time she could clearly remember.
“What… what was that?” She finally asked as the emotional tidalwave settled in her mind. “It felt…”
“Like your mind was on fire, and every spell you were under faded.” Harry supplied. “It’s part of what we could be. While you are not fireborn, you are the other part of my soul. Because of this bond, you can accept the fire and not be harmed, for it sees you as part of me. It’s also why I could use it to keep you alive.”
“I Love you Hermione,” His hand slid to cup her jaw, his thumb tracing her cheek. “I will always love you, but it must be your choice to love me in return. If you can’t, or won’t, I understand. No matter what I will always be there for you, but I can promise, I will never love another like I do you. You are my home.”
“Of course I love you, you idiot,” Hermione smiled as she pulled him to her, her lips finding his as she kissed him with every ounce of her being. She felt the love pouring back to her from his kiss, felt the Magic of the fire burn around them, enveloping them both, and just savored the feeling.
In the tallest tower of Hogwarts, Dumbledore sat contemplating what could have happened. The pair had been secure, he added extra wards himself to keep them contained even though he’d never been allowed in the room. He even tagged their monitoring charms with one of his own, so he’d know as soon as Harry woke. Then, nothing. The charm triggered, and when he appeared on the scene, he found chaos. Every monitoring charm in the room had failed. The mediwitches had tried to enter, and found the door engulfed in flames. They battered the door down, only to find an empty room. Everyone was confused, the facility had charms and wards over the whole building, the door had been intact, there was no way for them to leave.
Now they were gone, and with them any hope of answers. Albus was furious, he had to know what happened to Harry and how it affected his plans. He had to-
Dumbledore's mental tirade was cut off as every instrument he had ever used to track or monitor the boy exploded. The delicate pendulum that was tied to his wards at Privet drive stopped mid tick, then light faded from it as it turned to ash. The whirring top that helped track the boy sped up, lifting off its pedestal before flying apart, a large piece of it embedding itself into Albus’s chair a mere inch from his left ear. One device simply burst into thousands of teeny tiny pieces in a cloud. Another puffed one last black puff, then scattered its pieces throughout the room. Over and over the tale of destruction was told, some taking others out in mutual destruction, until every instrument was no more than a collection of very small pieces.
The old man stared, stunned at the carnage, until an acrid odor jolted his mental processes. Looking down, he found one of the pieces had caught his beard on fire. Quickly putting it out, and ignoring the still smoldering hairs, his mind tried to comprehend what had just happened.
Hermione finally resisted the pull to snog her boyfriend? Mate? Harry. Her Harry. They sat snuggled together on a log, simply enjoying the closeness they now shared as they watched the small creek make its way through the woods.
“Now, we end things.” Harry told her, “The fire tells me things, helps me to see what must be done, and I know how to defeat Voldemort now.”
“The fire tells you?”
“Yeah, it’s like... “ he paused, trying to figure out how to explain. “I think i’m partway between. I’ve awakened my phoenix side, yet am still me. The fire is the phoenix’s connection to magic. Yet you hold me to this existence.”
“I keep you here?”
“Yes you do,” He kissed her gently, “And I am very glad you do. But as I was saying, the fire represents that extra part of me that is a phoenix, and that phoenix knows. Voldemort created anchors, put bits of himself in objects and hid them away. The problem for us is finding them, or would be if it were not for the fire.”
‘It told you where they are?”
“Yes, but even better then that, it told me there’s a way to kill them all.” Harry held her tight. “You see, there are a few things that can kill a horcrux, like basilisk venom or Fiendfyre. We could gather them all up and use the carcass of the basilisk from second year, but there’s a better way.”
“And what is that?”
“Phoenix fire,” Harry told her sagely, almost reverently, before cracking and chuckling. “The reason a phoenix is so powerful is not its near immortality, but its fire. It burns hotter than dragon or Fiendfyre, and it affects more than just the physical. If it consumes a dark creature, it can also affect its soul, purifying or obliterating it. Because of the way the anchors are all tied together, burning one will burn the rest, and fortunately for us, we have easy access to one.”
“Yup. Remember that really weird locket we couldn’t figure out in that glass cabinet at number 12? The one with the funny snake on the front?”
“The one no one could open? Yeah I…. That was a Horcrux?” Hermione looked at him in disbelief.
“It is.” Harry smiled as he pulled her close. “Now we just have to decide how we want to go about destroying it.”
It had been months since Harry had disappeared with Miss Granger, and Albus Dumbledore was stumped. He sat in the chair of his recently reinstated post of Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, half listening to the argument over some bill or other, and moped. Nothing was going as he had planned. Everything was fine until whatever happened to Harry happened.
Harry had been pliable, looked up to him, and was on the cusp of being the perfect sacrifice. His use of the younger Weasley children had been perfect, Severus’s potions were perfect. He had failed to separate Harry from Miss Granger, but his efforts with love potions and the Yule Ball last year seemed to have paid dividends in keeping them from becoming closer. Then the ungrateful wretch caught himself on fire and disappeared.
Now he had been missing for months. It was Halloween and no one had seen hide nor hair of either of them since June. He thought back over his efforts over the last few months, as he sat there in the Wizengamot chambers wishing they would end this session so he could return to the Feast at Hogwarts. It had taken a midnight check of the Privet Drive wards to find the wards had been obliterated and that his notification charm was tied to itself. The blood wards he had placed all those years ago had imploded about the time his office had exploded, and all his carefully wrought devices had been destroyed. Apparently tying all his charms and monitors into the wards to make Harry power them had backfired when the wards fell. Whatever had caused them to fail, when they collapsed, so did his monitors and the magical backlash had destroyed them all. Everything was falling apart, even Granger’s parents had disappeared, their house completely empty and sold to new owners by the time anyone had thought to let them know their daughter had disappeared. Every method the Order had taken to try and locate the pair had failed. Owls refused to deliver mail, scryers couldn’t find them, and even Fawkes refused to flame to their location.
Albus looked up with a start as the doors to the Wizengamot chamber slammed open. Striding purposefully towards the middle of the floor was Miss Granger. Her hair flowed behind her as her crisp, even steps echoed through the stunned silence of the chamber. Her confident appearance was largely ignored as every eye was on the deep blue phoenix on her left shoulder. While Albus was curious about the change in Miss Ganger’s attitude, his indignance won out.
“Miss Granger, while it is a relief to see you once more, this is a closed session of the Wizengamot.”
“I know, but we figured you would like to be present at the defeat of Tom Riddle,” Hermione answered simply, reaching up to stroke the phoenix on her shoulder.
“Who?” one of the debaters on the floor asked, “and why would we care?”
“Ah, I see Mister Dumbledore has not shared that information with you yet.” Her head nodded in understanding. She then pulled her wand out and began to write in the air with flaming letters. “You see, Tom Marvolo Riddle was born in 1926, raised as an orphan, and graduated Hogwarts as Head Boy in 1945. He took a few odd jobs before disappearing some time in 1948. When he returned over a decade later he called himself-”
“Miss Granger you will stop at once!” Albus stood, his eyes losing their usual grandfather look as he stared hard at her.
“Why? Do they not know that you’ve had proof for four years that he’s not dead? That you’ve known for three years how he survived?” She ignored the old man's glare and swept her wand over the name she had written. The letters of Tom’s name shifted, floating into a new order, just as they had once done in the Chamber of Secrets all those years ago. “Have you not told them the much feared Lord Voldemort is not the pureblood savior they believe but a half-blood son of a desperate witch and a muggle nobleman's son?”
Yells and calls filled the room. The dark aligned families decried the aspirations cast on their Dark Lord while the light hollered back. Hermione stood calmly, waiting patiently as order was slowly restored.
“This is quite the flight of fancy Miss Granger,” Albus finally addressed her once everyone quieted down. “However, as there is no proof I’m afraid-”
Dumbledore was interrupted by the thunk of a large gold locket hitting the floor in front of Hermione. It was old and heavy, almost like a small box on a chain rather than a locket. There was some sort of design upon the front, but few were close enough to make out the snake shaped in the letter ‘S’ on it.
“And that is?” Albus drawled, his tone as if humoring a small child.
“That is a Horcrux, one of the soul anchors that Tom Riddle used to survive that Halloween night all those years ago.” Hermione explained, fighting not to laugh at the sudden loss of color in Dumbledore’s face. “He made several, one of which you held shortly after it was destroyed, Chief Warlock.”
The phoenix on her shoulder cried out, raising its flaming wings and a circle of blue fire erupted around the locket. The speakers from the debate, who had been slowly creeping forward, jumped back and away from the flame.
“As you can see, it has a powerful compulsion upon it.” Hermione smiled a bit, “It wants you to wear it. And if you do, it will slowly drain you, and use that power to resurrect it’s creator. That is what happened during the Chamber of Secrets incident my second year.”
“Chamber of secrets incident?” A voice asked in alarm. “That happened over fifty years ago.”
“The first one did,” Hermione agreed, “however, it was reopened during my second year because a diary, similarly used as a soul jar, found its way into the hands of an eleven year old girl. Harry Potter eventually figured out where the chamber was, slew the monster within, and rescued the girl.”
“Headmaster?” The same voice asked harshly.
“The matters of Hogwarts are not the question before us today.” Albus frowned at the speaker, a middle aged witch with a monocle.
“Perhaps they should be, once we’re through with this.” Hermione indicated the necklace. “As should your actions concerning my friend Harry.”
“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about Miss Granger.” Albus scolded her, “And I shall not have you spreading unfounded rumors.”
“Unfounded?” Hermione smirked, causing Albus’s gut to drop. “So you did not direct Rubeus Hagrid, an odd choice to send to the site of a magical attack, to retrieve an infant Harry Potter from the cottage in Godric’s Hollow minutes after his parents were killed? That under your direction, he did not refuse to give Harry to his sworn Godfather and instead took him to you? You did not then, with no authority to do so and with free, available, living Godparents, leave him on the doorstep of his magic hating relatives, overnight, and never checked on his well being? You never forced Harry to return to those same relatives despite the evidence of the abuse he received there?
“Then there’s the matter of your actions while he was in school.” Hermione let her emotions go, causing her magic to flare. Her hair spread behind her as if she was caught in a light breeze, while arcs of power played over her whole body. “Our first year you warned of a most painful death awaiting any who ventured into the third floor corridor. As it turned out you were hiding a fake philosopher's stone there, setting a trap for the specter of Voldemort... And Harry Potter. Or do you expect me to believe the traps you set would be difficult for a grown witch or wizard?”
“Traps?” the monocled witch asked.
“The stone was behind some challenges. A Cerberus behind a door opened by a simple unlocking spell taught in first year. Devil snare. A locked door opened by a flying key in a room of flying keys, with a broom provided. A giant chess set. A troll. A logic puzzle involving potions. And an enchantment involving the Mirror of Erised. That last one was the only one really challenging bit, though all were defeated by three first year students.”
“What about second year?” Hermione pressed on over Dumbledore's objection. “You knew both that neither Harry nor Hagrid had opened the chamber, and that the creature within was a basilisk. You were a teacher when Tom Riddle did it. Remember him? He accused Hagrid, but Hagrid only had a pet Acromantula, not something that could kill without a mark like a basilisk. Even without enough evidence to support the accusation, Hagrid’s wand was snapped. Funny how he’s lived at the castle for the last fifty years and it took that long for another attack to occur. Then again you knew what was in there, you knew what Colin Creevey’s melted camera meant.”
“Then there’s our third year, where the man you helped send to Azkaban escaped. Yes, Sirius Black was sent to Azkaban, supposedly for the betrayal of the Potters and the murder of twelve muggles. The only problem was he was innocent. He never had a trial. You can check the records, He was arrested November 3rd at 11:34 am, then transferred to Azkaban at 4:17 pm the same day. The ministry files have an arrest report, and the transfer order. Nothing else. No interviews, no trial records, Nothing at all.” She let that sink in for a second. “Oh, by the way, the name on that transfer order? Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.”
“MISS GRANGER! You will be silent at once!” bellowed Dumbledore, slapping his hand upon his desk and rising to his feet.
“Afraid of all your secrets getting out, Headmaster? Afraid to let these people know you condoned illegal incarceration and judicial murder?”
“I SAID SILENCE!” Dumbledore's arm shot up and a spell was racing for Hermione before anyone else could react. The spell disappeared in a flicker of flame less than a meter in front of her. Another spell sputtered out, then another. Each falling short and never reaching the calm witch.
“You see, Headmaster, I have had the truth shown to me. The phoenix is a bird of the light, blessed by magic. It is also a force for justice.” She scratched the blue phoenix’s belly feathers. “Skye here has helped remove the potions and charms you put on me, he has freed me from the enslavement you had planned for me. And he is here to free two more today.
“The first is Tom Marvolo Riddle. Skye will free him from this mortal coil.” Hermione’s tone was sad, almost grieving. “This is a sad day, for one so brilliant to be led to such darkness. Yes, he was led there, manipulated and guided to the doom of us all. His actions were influenced by the indifference and abuse around him. He attended Hogwarts and due to his unknown parentage was ostracized. He was shown a world where if you were not a pureblood you were inferior and unworthy. So he remade himself as a pureblood. He tried to get help, but his pleas were ignored. You see, this society created Lord Voldemort, for that same society failed Tom Riddle.
“He can find forgiveness, though not here on this earth. Phoenix fire is a purifying fire, hotter and more consuming that any other. Today is All Hallows Eve, the day of the dead, Halloween. However you name it, it is the day the barrier between life and death is the weakest, and it is the day that Tom Riddle died his first death. Before you sits a piece of Riddle's soul, and through it, Skye will purify his entire soul. A horcrux is a fraction of a soul, yet it is still connected to the whole. By purifying this piece with Phoenix fire, those fires will erase all dark magic upon him, including that which keeps him alive today.”
Silence rang through the chamber as Skye took flight, fire trailing behind him as he circled the chamber. His song touched everyone, and flames in torches grew brighter as he sang. The circle of fire around the locket grew taller, soon reaching a common peak and forming a cone of fire over the horcrux. Skye wheeled and dove, igniting himself as he entered the flaming pyre. The fire turned blue, then white. Brighter and brighter it burned until those assembled could feel the heat, even in the back of the room furthest from the pyre. Then a shadow entered the room, screaming and wriggling like a man caught in a riptide. The shadow struggled as it was pulled into the furnace. A minute later another shadow swept in, this one moving faster, yet still struggling against the pull. A third tried to go with the pull, skirt the flames, and move past them, but it too fell into the fire. Finally, almost five minutes after the cleansing began, two more shadows entered. The first was quickly consumed, but the other used one last trick to avoid its death. It reached out and grabbed, snagging a tendril of magic emanating from Lucius Malfoy’s left arm. The man screamed, clutching his arm. Then another tendril came for a man called Yaxley. Over and Over, tendrils of magic were grabbed by the struggling shade, soon they numbered over a hundred, most not even in the room. The shade touched the pyre and the flames consumed him, they then raced up the tendrils, blue-white flames burning the forearms of those affected. The screams held for a few seconds, before each fell to their knees, panting and still holding their arms.
The rancorous squeal of Madam Umbridge erupted from beside the Minister. “Aurors, arrest this lying brat for her assault on the members of this great convocation!”
“Ah Madam Umbridge, back from your vacation with the centaurs already?” Hermione turned to the pink faced woman as the two aurors who had tried to approach Hermione were rebuffed by an invisible shield. “I find it incredible that you were not marked. Guess I owe Harry a Galleon. Anyway, my biggest question is why you are still here seeing as you spent last year assaulting and abusing the students of Hogwarts. Making them write lines with blood quills is just sadistic. Compelling them not to speak of it and using Veritaserum on them is just plain illegal.”
“Add a charge of False accusation of a ministry official to those charges, Aurors.” The pink toad simpered.
“I, Hermione Jean Granger, do swear on my magic that I have witnessed and been placed under compulsion by Dolores Jane Umbridge. I have also seen and treated the evidence of repeated use of blood quills on multiple Hogwarts students after detentions with Mrs. Umbridge who were stopped magically from repeating what had happened. I also was present when Potions Master Snape refused her more Veritaserum due to her using it all interrogating students. So I say, so mote it be.”
“It doesn’t matter you Mudblood bitch,” snarled Umbridge as a pair of Aurors moved to restrain her. “I am the Senior undersecretary to the Minister of Magic, get your filthy paws off me. None of you can touch me, I'll fire every one of you. Let me go you cunt!”
As she was spouting her vitriol, the two aurors grabbed her by the arms and tried to pull the irate woman away. The pudgy woman struggled, turning her vitriol towards her accosters. As the struggle continued, just as she called the Auror to her right a cunt, Umbridge swiveled. By rolling her hips slightly, she caused the smaller Auror to stumble and be thrown against the low barrier, rolling over it and falling towards the hard granite floor of the courtroom.
Seeing the falling Auror, wand still in her hand, Hermione acted. Without thought or hesitation, she cast. Two feet before her head impacted the floor, the auror’s fall slowed rapidly and she rolled before laying upon a cushion of magic. The scuffling noise above redirected Hermione’s attention in time to see the toad punch the other Auror in the face and draw her wand, aiming it unerringly at Hermione.
“I’ve wanted to do this for over a year, Avada Kedavra!”
The entire room gasped in shock at the attack. Everyone but Hermione. She stood calmly, seemingly unconcerned as the sickly green spell sped towards her. She didn’t even flinch when a hand reached in front of her and caught the spell.
“Such an ugly thing to do,” Harry Potter said casually as he stepped from the roaring flames around the locket and held the killing curse in his hand. As the shocked silence rang through the hall his attention turned to the curse in his hand. “Such a waste. The one who created this spell was obviously a genius, yet to turn that genius to something so destructive… It seems history is repeating itself, though instead of one man it’s all of you.”
“Harry!” The amazement in Dumbledore’s voice was evident, like he couldn’t believe his eyes.
“Hey Headmaster,” Harry flippantly said as he turned towards the old man. “Back to ignoring your students I see. It is still a school day today isn’t it? Yet here you sit, high and mighty and not there where you are needed. Don’t worry, we’ll get to you in a minute.
“You, however, are the star of the hour.” He turned back to Umbridge, fire in his emerald eyes. “You have now ensured you get to spend the rest of your miserable life in the wonderful island resort of Azkaban.”
“Like hell I will,” The toad cum woman shrieked as four Aurors manhandled her away. “I’ll be back in my office tomorrow.”
“I think not,” a tall, auburn haired witch spoke from the third row, the same who had asked the questions of Hermione. “Aurors, silence the prisoner and place her in the Wizengamot holding cell. I see no reason not to try her once this current issue is resolved. Everyone here is a witness after all.”
“Thank you, Madam Bones,” Harry held the glowing orb of the curse out, and it floated over towards the Auror who wasn’t restraining the Senior Undersecretary. “It’s safe to handle now, but you can still trace the caster.”
“Harry, how did you do this?” Dumbledore demanded, “And where have you been, we’ve been worried sick about you?”
“Like hell you were,” Harry snorted. “You were worried your pawn had been lost. I hate to break it to you but it has.”
“I’m afraid I have no idea what you are speaking of,” Dumbledore waved off the accusation. “In any case, you can tell me as we return to Hogwarts. Your friends have been rather worried about you.”
“And how would you know that Headmaster?” Hermione asked pointedly, “I was with him, the Weasleys were only friendly because you paid them to be, and you have not spoken to Luna since she refused to tell you what happened during the battle in the Department of Mysteries.”
“They are your friends my dear boy, of course they are worried about you.” Dumbledore rose from his seat. “Come now, it is past time for you to be back in school. I shall take you back and then I'll send Hagrid to gather your things for this year.”
“I think not, Headmaster,” Harry shook his head wryly. “For it is not to Hogwarts we travel next.”
“Of course it is, you must finish your education.” Dumbledore was ambling his way down towards the floor, acting as always as the elderly grandfather.
“We have been working on it. You see, Hogwarts may be the best school in Britain, but only by dint of being the only one. We are both adults, both have passed our OWLs, and have decided to take some time to study abroad.”
“Nonsense my boy,” Albus was starting to move a little faster down the steps now, “There is no finer school than Hogwarts. And that is where we shall go.”
“Who are you to dictate what I do?” Harry asked, smiling inside.
“I am your magical guardian, it is my responsibility to ensure you are properly educated.” Albus had almost reached the bottom of the stairs.
“You emancipated me two years ago,” Harry smiled as the old wanker almost fell the last three steps. “You remember when you, as my supposed magical guardian and a member of the Wizengamot, Mr. Crouch, who was acting for the ministry and the Goblet of Fire, a representative of Magic, declared I must participate in a tournament that was only open to of age students?”
“I’m sure whoever gave you that opinion did not have your best interest in mind, Harry,” Dumbledore resumed his path towards the pair.
“I’m sure you think that, but it was the goblins that confirmed this information.” Harry fought not to laugh as the old man stumbled again. “I have already learned so much outside of Hogwarts though, it’s amazing. Being fireborn really helped too.”
Harry paused, watching carefully as Dumbledore continued his approach. Timing it perfectly, just as he shifted his path to place himself between Harry and Hermione, Harry raised his hand. As they had been talking, the flames around the former Horcrux had diminished, but not extinguished. As Dumbledore made his way across the floor, so intent on Harry, he missed entering that circle of fire. When Harry’s hand raised, so did the flames.
“Remember how we promised to free two souls today?” Hermione spoke, starting to walk clockwise around the now stalled Dumbledore. “This is how we save the second. We have someone very special in mind, someone Albus Dumbledore has held in captivity for ages. Today we set him free.”
As she spoke, Harry circled the fire in the other direction, moving slower as he wrote glyphs in the air with flames as he went. Each rune spun slowly, waiting. After he had completed his path completely around Dumbledore, Hermione stood opposite him across the fire cage. As the last glyph spun, all seven runes synced and started to spin in time while flattening. As one, the runes stopped, now laid parallel to the floor and began to float down. Growing as they descended, they touched the floor of the room as one.
The azure flames around Dumbledore shifted white, streaming up yet everyone was able to see through them. A dark chain appeared where it passed through the flames, ethereal in its construction. Thin black cords were also seen, and as the flames burned, more of these black connections were exposed. Cord after cord appeared, and as the flames exposed them, they grew easier to see. Soon, a thin black line ran from almost every member of the traditional light and neutral representatives in the chamber back to Dumbledore. A shocked and irate Dumbledore was beginning to look like the spider at the center of a web.
“Member of the Wizengamot,” Harry reached up and grasped the chain, pulling slightly. “These are dark bindings. We had only intended to release Fawkes from his imprisonment, but seeing this, we cannot leave it.”
Fawkes flamed in, the other end of the ethereal chain wrapped tightly around his body. Hermione held out her arm, and he landed on it, looking angrily at the man encased in flames.
“Fawkes, get me out of here,” Dumbledore ordered, and tried to pull on the chain. It pulled taught between him and the cage, but never budged beyond it. This just seemed to anger the old man. “Get me out of here you overgrown turkey!”
Attention drawn to the chain, all could see it began to glow at the boundary. Like iron in the forge, the connection between Dumbledore and his phoenix grew hot. A yellow glow became orange before shifting through red then white hot. Those that thought to look at the other bindings saw them begin to burn as well.
Once every binding was hot enough, Harry began to Sing. It wasn't a normal song, sang with a human voice, but the song of a phoenix. A song of hope and life rang through the Chamber. Spirits were lifted and hearts lightened.
Finally, the chain seemed to hit a critical temperature and melted. As soon as the link was broken, the black chains around Fawkes disappeared. As soon as he was free, he joined Harry in his song. With both their power behind the music, the rest of the bindings snapped. As each one who had been bound was freed, they felt their minds clear. Old angers and bitter rivalries disappeared. Everyone sat up as if a great weight had been lifted, and every one of them stared in hatred at the man responsible.
The last note of the song ended, the flames died, and a sobbing, pleading, decrepit old man remained. It was as if he had aged another century. The word spry would never again be applied to Albus Dumbledore as he stood swaying on his feet. His beard was dull and his face haggard. Age and laugh lines deepened to give him a tired look and he was hunched over far more than he ever had before.
“Our goals are accomplished,” Hermione spoke into the silence. “Before you stands a man whom only you can judge. You saw what he did, and who he did it to. Do your job.”
“One last thing,” Harry added as Hermione slipped into his arms, “Remember the purification of Tom Riddle's soul. He used bindings to try to survive. I remind everyone here, that there is no method to bind two souls together in any way that is not voluntary, so what does that mean for those whom he clung to?”
“Wait,” The couple turned to the voice belonging to an elderly woman with a vulture of all things on her hat. “Where are you going?”
“Well, since there is no place for me to be just Harry here, and since I owe my wife a honeymoon, we’re going to travel the world and learn everything we can. I hope one day Britain will be a place we can be proud to claim as our home, but only you can decide if that will ever be true.”
With those final words, blue flames engulfed them both and they were gone.