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Once and Eternal Chapter 1

Harry Potter was not having a good week.

The detentions with Umbridge would have been enough to make it a bad week all on their own, but the increasing feeling of encroaching doom was only tangentially related to the toad.

No, the feeling of doom could be summed up in seven simple words:

Dobby was trying to save him again.

The... normality-challenged elf (as Harry was careful to phrase it even in his head, on the off chance that Hermione had developed the ability to read minds— it was an extremely unlikely possibility, but the risk simply wasn't worth it) had spotted him putting essence of murtlap on the words carved into his hand, gasped in horror, exclaimed "The great wizard Harry Potter sir is hurt! Harry Potter sir is not to be being worried! Dobby will be fixing!", and disappeared before the stunned wizard could stop him.

That was six days ago, and with each day that passed with no sign of the elf Harry had gotten more nervous.

Which could explain why the sudden pop of Dobby's arrival caused him to knock his plate onto the floor, leading to every eye in the Great Hall being focused on him.

"Dobby is being back, Harry Potter sir! Dobby is being taking care of ugly toad woman!"

As Harry's stomach attempted to fall through the floor, Umbridge's voice was easily audible.

"What's this, Mr. Potter? Conspiring against a duly appointed Ministry official? This will have to be investigated— bad enough that you continue to spread your lies, but active treason—"

"I AM NOT LYING!" Harry shouted, leaping to his feet. He'd had it. Dobby's well-meaning interference had landed him in the soup, but at this point he didn't have anything to lose.

Umbridge opened her mouth to respond, something which would have almost certainly resulted in an escalation of the conflict, inevitably ending with Harry's expulsion at a minimum. Before she could speak, however, the doors to the Great Hall swung open with a resounding crash.

Everyone in the room was staring at the figure shuffling through the doorway. It was the oldest house elf Harry had ever seen, and— in the complete and utter silence which had fallen over the Great Hall— he could hear it muttering to itself.

"Dilly is not being wanting to be here. Dilly is being wanting to be at home with the fire and the hot chocolate, but no, Dilly is being having to be trudging all the way here because stupid wizards is being too stupid to be handling dark wizards on their own. Dilly is being having hurting feet now. Dilly is being getting too old for this shit."

That was bizarre enough, even without the walking stick the elf was leaning on heavily for each step, but the thing that truly took the elf over the top was the sword it was carrying in the crook of one arm.

"Dilly is being knowing Master is being wanting to sleep until he is being waking up, but Dilly is being having no choice. Wizarding England is being needing Master." The elf snorted, a sound of pure disgust. "Muggle England is being needing Master."

"What is the meaning of this?" Umbridge demanded.

"Stupid toad woman should be being quiet," the elf said, irritably. When the professor drew her wand, Dilly made a short, irritated movement with its staff, and the wand flew from her hand, snapping into two pieces and clattering to the floor.

"Ugly toad woman is being as kind and wise as she is beautiful," the elf said, coming to a stop in front of Harry. The barely-muted snicker which swept the room at that statement caused Umbridge's fury to redouble— something which was only revealed by her purpling face, as she seemed to be unable to make a sound.

The elf leaned its walking stick up against... well, nothing, as far as Harry could see, before struggling to pull the sword from the scabbard. It fought to lift the bare sword above its head, swaying dangerously as it did, thin arms visibly trembling, before tilting the blade forward and slamming it point first into the stone floor.

The sword slid into the stone without a sound, stopping when the blade was halfway buried, and the elf leaned on it for a moment, breathing heavily before standing up and taking a step backwards.

"Dilly is being sorry, Master," it said, looking straight at Harry. "But Dilly is being having no choice. Master is being knowing what Master is being needing to be doing."

Harry stood, as if in a trance. Hermione was possibly the first to understand, or at least to audibly respond.

"It can't be," she whispered, shocked.

He took a step forward, and Luna knelt to his right. He wondered when she'd moved away from the Ravenclaw table.

"Your Majesty," she said, bowing her head.

Harry took another step forward, as a confused babble rose above the House tables, and grasped the sword in his hand. He recognized it, now— it was the same sword he'd used against the Basilisk, Gryffindor's sword.

He met Umbridge's eyes, seeing the fury in them, and pulled.

The sword slid out with no resistance, and as the tip pulled free of the stone, a wave of magical energy swept through him, repairing the damage of years of neglect and malnutrition, rewiring connections in his brain, freeing long-blocked memories.

The same wave of energy spread out in all directions, a blinding flash, and when it faded, the students gasped.

The physical changes were not enormous; Harry was, perhaps, slightly taller, slightly more muscular, but that was it. The true change was in the way he carried himself. No more was Harry the abused little boy; gone was the angry, sullen teenager. In its place stood a man, carrying himself with confidence, a sense of presence about him which drew every eye.

Conjuring a belt with an absent wave of his hand, he buckled the scabbard around his waist, and sheathed the sword, before beginning to clap, sardonically.

Clap. Clap. Clap.

"Congratulations," Harry said, shaking his head in disbelief. "In the millennium since the school was founded, I've been forced to deal with several dark wizards. I've even been forced to recover some portion of my memories, once or twice, to do so. But never, in a thousand years, has Dilly been forced to bring me the Sword, much less have me pull the Sword from the Stone. Not since I helped Godric, Rowena, and Helga turn Camelot into a place of learning have I been forced to return."

Hermione made a strangled noise behind him; he ignored it, for now.

"Congratulations," he repeated. "How does it feel to know that you caused the end of Hogwarts as you know it?"

He gestured at the walls, and there was a fresh round of gasps, as the students took in the changes which had gone unnoticed until that moment.

Gone were the dull, grey walls and floor; in their place were walls of gleaming marble and floors of polished granite. Gone were the banners of the various houses.

In their place were identical banners, white, with a red dragon superimposed.

There were several quiet thumps, as the more historically aware students put the facts together and, in the majority of the cases, fainted. He could hear Ron behind him, telling Hermione to breathe.

"Well?" Harry demanded, releasing the silencing spell with a wave of his hand. "What do you have to say for yourself, Madam Undersecretary?"

"Who do you think you are?" she blustered. She turned to Dumbledore. "You see? The boy is completely unstable—"

She stopped with a shriek, as she was spun around with a flick of Harry's fingers, and pulled down to float in front of him.

"Who do I think I am?" he asked, in a dangerous voice. "You tell me, Madame." The contempt in his voice was nearly visible. "In whose name are the oaths of office of all wizarding officials taken?"

She remained silent, the blood beginning to drain from her face.

"I wonder if you understand, or are just scared of being helpless," Harry said, idly. "Never-mind. Hermione, would you care to enlighten her?"

He could hear his friend audibly swallow. "I-In the name of M-Merlin and...." Her voice trailed off.

"And?" he prompted.

"A-And of Arthur P-Pendragon, the Once and Eternal King."

"That's right," he said, glaring at Umbridge. "Now do you understand?"

"You c-can't be," she protested, shaking her head wildly. "Y-you c-can't be."

"I can, and I am," he said. "Arthur Pendragon, King of the Britons, born to James and Lily Potter— this time around. Prophesied nemesis of Tom Marvolo Riddle, the self-styled Lord Voldemort."

At Dumbledore's audible gasp, his gaze switched to the Headmaster. "Don't think you will be getting off either, old man. Camelot heard the prophecy when you watched it in your pensieve, and the first thing she did when she awoke was to inform me— about that, as well as other things. You will be having a very long discussion with Us. We are not pleased with your actions. Especially as you have allowed Our castle to become a breeding ground for dark wizards."

The gasps were softer this time, as if the students were losing their ability to be shocked.

"As Hogwarts no longer exists as such, you have no authority in Our castle," Harry said. "We will discuss your failures at a later time; We have more important things to deal with at the moment. Do not, however, think that We shall forget."

Dumbledore sat down heavily in his chair, his face ashen, and Harry returned his attention to Umbridge. "You are, Madame, in a great deal of trouble. What I already know you have done is enough for Us to pass judgement, but We shall wait until you have been questioned under Veritaserum before We do so."

"Veritaserum is a Ministry-controlled substance," Umbridge said, smirking. "I highly doubt its use will be permitted."

"You forget yourself, Madame!" Harry roared. "The Ministry answers to Us, and it will do as We say."

She paled.

"And now," he said, more calmly, "It is time for the first, but not least, part of your sentence."

Umbridge swallowed. "W-w-what...."

Harry smirked, coldly.

"You shall have the duty of informing Cornelius Fudge that, thanks to your actions, We have returned... and that, as Minister of Magic, he serves at Our pleasure. And We are not pleased." His smirk broadened as she paled further.

"That's right, Madame. You, and you alone, are the reason Fudge is no longer Minister of Magic."

The smirk became positively evil.

"And you get to tell him."

Umbridge actually whimpered. "P-please, S-sire...."

"Summon him. Now." Harry motioned the gleaming marble wall, which held a fireplace that had not been there moments earlier. "Don't tell him why he's coming. We want to see his face." He paused for a moment, allowing Umbridge a moment to scheme. "We should mention that the Aurors' oaths will not allow them to use their magic against Us."

The sudden change in the toad's expression left no doubt in their minds that she'd been planning something.

"Now, Madame Former Undersecretary."

Umbridge moved to the fireplace, and Harry turned his attention to his friends. "Are you all right?" he asked Hermione, who looked like she might faint at any moment.

"I... you... how...." She stared at him, eyes unnaturally wide.

"Breathe, Hermione," he said, smiling, and looked at Ron. "We have to remember to mark today on our calendars. I don't think we've ever seen Hermione speechless before, have we?"

Ron smiled, shifting uncomfortably. "No, mate... er... Sire?"

Harry shook his head. "You and Hermione may call me whatever you want," he said. "You've stood beside me from the beginning. Maybe there were a few hiccups along the way, but when it really came down to it, you were there."

Ron flushed.

"I mean it, Ron," Harry said. "And I intend to reward you, too, just as soon as I figure out how. Maybe you'd like Malfoy's estate? You'd have to get your brother to go through and get rid of all the curses, though...."

Ron looked stunned, and Harry grinned at him before turning to the fireplace, where Fudge was just stepping out.

"What's this all about, then, Dolores? And why aren't you at Hogwarts?" the plump man asked.

"She is," Harry said. "Or, rather, she is at Camelot, as Hogwarts has been restored to its former condition— and use."

"Use?" Fudge asked. "What's going on here?"

Harry sighed. "Fudge, what was Camelot?"

"King Arthur's castle, of course," Fudge said. "Dumbledore, what's going on here?"

"You really are a fool, aren't you?" Harry said, wordlessly silencing Dumbledore before he could respond. "If it's restored to its former use, then that means...." He waited for a moment before sighing again. "It means that the King has returned, you bloody idiot!"

"Here now, you can't talk to me like that," Fudge snapped. "I am the Minister of Magic, and—"

"No," Harry said, smiling coldly. "You aren't. Well, Madame Former Undersecretary? I believe you have an explanation to make."

Fudge turned to Umbridge. "What is he talking about, Dolores?" he snapped.

Umbridge swallowed, looking like she wanted the earth to swallow her up. "It... it seems...."

"It seems what?" Fudge glared at her. "Well?"

She swallowed again. "If— if you'll recall, the legends said that King Arthur would return when— when he was most needed." Shrinking back at the look of dawning horror on Fudge's face, she continued, "It... it seems that Harry Potter is... is King Arthur."

"Preposterous!" Fudge exploded. "That's not possible!"

"It is, Fudge," Harry said, not bothering to hide the contempt in his voice. "Have you even bothered to look at your hands? You'll note that you no longer bear the Royal Seal." He raised his right hand. "We bear it, for We have reclaimed Our rights and responsibilities."

"But— but—" Fudge sputtered.

"No 'buts'," Harry said. "You know as well as We do that the Seal cannot be stolen." He watched as that fact percolated through the little man's brain.

"Now." He looked up at the head table. "Snape. You have Veritaserum."

It wasn't a question, and he watched the Potions Master pale as he realized that Harry had somehow known he was carrying it.

"Y-yes, Sire."

"Administer it."

Umbridge attempted to run, but managed only two steps before tumbling to the ground, tied up in magical ropes. "You shouldn't run in the Great Hall," Luna said, tucking her wand behind her ear. "The flittering snickerwacks don't like it."

"Thank you, Luna," Harry said.

"It was my pleasure, Sire," the blonde said, ducking her head.

"Nonetheless, you have Our thanks," he repeated, as he watched Snape administer the Veritaserum. "Now, we shall proceed."

The questioning took longer than he had expected, and his face grew darker with every answer. Over three hours later, when the interrogation was finally complete, he spoke.

"Dolores Jane Umbridge," he said, "Know that We have rarely encountered someone as foul and loathsome as We find you to be. The crimes We knew about would already have merited death, but given the full expanse of your crimes, We find that We have no choice but to sentence you to a traitor's death. It is Our decision that you shall be removed from this castle and taken to a place of execution, there to be hung by the neck until the life has almost passed from your body. You shall then be beheaded, and your body divided into four parts, each portion to be disposed of in a common cesspit, and your head to be displayed on a pike in Diagon Alley."

Umbridge was unable to respond, as he had asked no question, but Hermione was under no such constraint.

"Harry, no!" she protested. "You can't do this! It's... it's barbaric!"

"I find I must agree," Dumbledore began, but a sharp look from Harry cut him off mid-sentence.

He crossed the floor, and knelt in front of Hermione, taking her hand. "I know," he said, gently. "'Barbaric' is exactly the right term for it. There is no place in a civilized society for such punishments."

He sighed. "Unfortunately, Hermione, this is not a civilized society. You heard her testimony; the Ministry is a cesspool of corruption. I had hoped that all that would be necessary was a certain degree of house-cleaning, but it is clear that more is needed. I'm going to have to completely destroy the Ministry, and replace it with something else, something that will actually do the job that government is supposed to do."

"But Harry—"

"I know, Hermione, I know. The problem is that people like Dumbledore have allowed the Malfoys and the Snapes of the wizarding world to believe that they will never be punished for their crimes. I have to shock them into understanding that they are wrong."

He stood, still holding her hand. "I hope... I pray... that this is the only time I have to do this, that I can sentence the Death Eaters and the other traitors to a clean, painless death, but I will do what I must, Hermione. It is my duty."

She looked up at him, tears welling up in her eyes. "Please, Harry...."

"I must," he said. "I will not shirk my duty. I would hope, however, that you would stay by my side, as one of my advisors. If anyone can find a way to avoid this necessity in the future, I truly believe it is you."

She nodded, tears running down her cheeks.

"Thank you," he said, softly, before turning to face the rest.

"You have heard what We have said." He took a few steps forward, so that he could easily be seen. "Understand this: We meant every word We have said. We will save the wizarding world. We will eliminate the corruption which has infiltrated every level of the Ministry of Magic, even if we must replace it to do so."

He turned his gaze to the cowering Fudge, who had gone progressively paler as Umbridge was questioned.

"Now," he said. "We have someone we need to go see, before We are too busy to do so, and you will need to be with Us, to help with explanations."

"W-Who do you need to see, S-Sire?" Fudge asked. "And w-what do you need me for?"

Harry smiled, and unlike the smiles he'd given Umbridge, this was a real smile.

"Well," he said, as he placed one hand on Fudge's shoulder and guided him out of the room. "We thought it would be nice to be present when you explained to Elizabeth of Windsor how it was the actions of your most trusted advisor that resulted in the return of someone with a better claim to the throne of England than hers. We expect the expression on her face will be quite a sight...."

As Hermione began choking, Harry chuckled. Just before they passed out of earshot, he called back, "I'll give you a Pensieve copy of the memory, Hermione. Don't worry...."