Chapter 40 – A long summer that wasn't
Apologies for the (very) long gap between chapters, life in general has sucked with my health and my job, which has impacted heavily on both my free time and my drive to create… anything really.
But I'm working on getting out of the slump and getting back on track!
I also want to confirm to my fans (and isn't that a scary thought, I have fans :P) that I have no intention of stopping this story until it reaches its planned end, it just may take a bit to get there.
Many thanks to my Beta, Trey of the Rebellion, thank you for the hard work going through the chapter to get it to this stage, as well as chasing me up to make sure I'm okay, especially with how my years been.
I've also removed the vote and have the way forward with Ron. Thank you for your ideas and viewpoints, I have read and taken them all into account.
Now, on with the chapter!
As the sun settled into its slumber and the moon near full moon rose above the temple hidden behind forbidden magics and the jungle itself, an ancient horror contained within the pristine flesh of a late teenaged girl glared at Abaddon across the clearing. The beautifully carved stones of the bloodstained temple practically hummed in anticipation of the violence that could be unleashed in an instant on such a potent night as this.
Abaddon stood tall and strong, wearing a white suit that displayed no sign of his journey through the jungle to reach this hallowed place. A dozen of his men stood at his back, ready and waiting for violence to be unleashed. At their sides rested well cared for modern weapons alongside for medieval weapons of war, but none allowed a finger or palm to touch any of them, but those who knew such things realised it would take but a moment for those weapons to be brought to deal death and destruction on their foes.
As the Count Dooku standing tall and proud beside her, Sofia stood in a fine white dress to match his suit, acquired at great cost from the finest tailors of Italy, she displayed their wealth and power to the gathered minions around them, not that the cultists would understand such a display.
Nearly a hundred cultists stood amongst the temple stones, garbed in a mix of ritualistic clothing and armour from centuries ago. Abaddon could feel the old enchantments saturating the material, powerful magics had been layered to protect the wearers from various forms of danger.
The Force hummed around them, a cold and almost suffocating weight of the Dark Side thrumming through the temple around them with a beat like a slow and failing heartbeat.
The ancient horror rested a hand on the hilt of an equally ancient obsidian dagger at her waist, the powerful relic stained black with the hearts blood of uncountable victims and Abaddon was sure he could hear it growl hungrily under its mistress's loving touch.
"I am afraid that your… heralds did not provide me a name for you." Abaddon looked over the cultists as they were torn between glaring at him for daring to speak to their Goddess or to gaze longingly upon her divine beauty. Not that Abaddon saw much of that in her. A random thought ran through his head that he had never knowingly seen a Vampire before today, but the images he had seen of them in the memories and texts of the Magi were obviously twisted to Ministry propaganda.
One of the more elaborately dressed priests opened his mouth to speak at the insulting foreigner daring to sully his goddesses' ears with his foul heretical tongue. Sofia, an ambitious and well-practiced student, drank slightly on the dark side of the temple to fuel her power and with a simple gesture of her hand, pulled the priests tongue out of his mouth and forced it shut, causing him to bite the majority of his tongue off. "Silence," she hissed into the shocked air of those around them, "Your betters are talking."
Abaddon hummed in approval and stroked Sofia's back to calm her slightly, pleased at the skill she had displayed. "Indeed. As I was saying, your herald was most rude to my apprentice. His demands did not endear me to the man either. Especially not today."
The ancient vampire took a shallow breath as she began to speak, "By the Old Pacts, your kind are not welcome within the sacred lands of my people and your fates are mine to decide. Kind words are not my way. He was to warn you to leave or face my judgement on you and yours."
Abaddon nodded at that, "I can tell you lack diplomacy." He gestured to one of his minions behind him, who ran up with a sack. As the sack opened, the vampire took a deep sniff of the air and frowned at the scent she detected. Reaching in, Abaddon grabbed hold of the contents and threw the severed head at the vampires' feet, he motioned towards it, "That is my response to his and your rudeness."
"You dare!" the vampire growled as her fingers tightened around her blades hilt, "You insult me in my temple!"
Abaddon laughed at that, drinking deeply of the ancient and primal power of the temple in question, "Of course I dare. Who do you think we are, weak fools who didn't know exactly what and who you are? That we wouldn't take into account your stories with our own knowledge?"
The vampire's form seemed to flicker between blinks of the human eye and the tip of her obsidian dagger paused just before piercing Abaddon's eye, the Vampires own eyes wide in shock that she had been stopped without the trace of any magic she could sense from the white wizard before her.
Abaddon sighed as he stepped back, leaving the vampire grasped in the crushing power of the Dark Side at his control, "Normally, I would waste time playing a game between us, but unfortunately, I lack the time for such entertainments."
He paused and looked over the cultists as they stared in confused horror at what was happening, terrified by the cloying presence of the intruder. "Had your herald arrived another morning, I may have come to speak as equals with you. Had they not insulted the woman beside me, who at that time was my fiancé, I would have spoken with you. Had they not barged into our private wedding during the ceremony, insulted and threatened my soon to be wife, her kin and our guests, I would have spoken with you."
He reached out with the Force and hammered its power onto the spines of the cultists, forcing them to their knees. "But your herald insulted me and mine thrice during a sacred ritual on the solstice. How could I not answer such insults in kind." Abaddon stepped beside Sofia and kissed her cheek with a smile, "So instead of dealing with you myself, as a surprise wedding gift between us, I have given Sofia here the honour of but a few words which will settle this matter between us."
At Abaddon's proud and loving smile at her, Sofia felt a rush of confidence at his words and stepped forward, taking the ritual knife from the frozen vampires grasp and running the tip along the horrors arm to fuel the spell waiting on her lips. Raising the stained blade, she flicked a drop of the vampire's potent ichor, sacrificing a token of victory, forcibly taken from a self-proclaimed goddess, towards the temple and whispered but two words, "Famelicus Diabolica."
And then the world burned under her hungry dominion.
Under the light of the full moon, and the faint whistling of the wind in the trees, Lucius Malfoy grimaced at the sight of the weeping woman chained to the ritual circle. Tonight, had all been remarkably unpleasant to witness, and at some points participate in, but needs must if he was to help restore his Lord to full strength.
With a swipe of his wand, the male sacrifice was discarded to the side where MacNair got to work on disposing of the evidence. "Lolly!" he called and clicked his fingers, waiting for a few seconds for the Malfoy's nanny elf to appear before him.
The old elf bowed low and made sure to focus entirely on her Master's feet, failing to hide her shiver at the sensations and stench of the dark magic saturating this place. "Master calls Lolly."
Lucius nodded and gestured to the woman with the tip of his wand, "This woman will give birth in the turning of one moon. It will be a great strain on her body and mind, you are to ensure she lives to give birth and does no harm to the child. She will be your responsibility. No-one is to know of her unless I inform them, you are to take care of all her needs and to protect her and especially the child."
"Lolly understands," she said with another bow, "The Mistress House or the Manor?"
Lucius pondered for a moment before nodding, "The Ladies Chambers of the Manor. Tell Tanny to prepare one of the guest rooms for my own tastes and ensure the Lords chambers are cleansed in full for the Dark Lord's return."
Lolly nodded as she waited to be dismissed, at a flick of Lucius' finger, she moved to the woman, carefully avoiding the ritual circles details as she did so. With a snap of her fingers, the chains came free, and she took the weeping woman's hand and popped away, taking the woman as instructed.
Lucius began to destroy the evidence of the ritual, launching the stone the woman had been bound to into the nearby lake. He carefully began to unravel the ritual circle, snapping links and dispersing the residual magic into the land. It would still fester and mark this place for years, but the actual form of the ritual would be hidden from investigators who happened to find the location, they would only be able to tell that a lot of dark magic occurred here.
MacNair waited silently for the hour that it took Lucius to do his work before offering a goblet of fresh water, "What next?"
Lucius washed his mouth out and spat it to one side before draining the goblet in full to quench his thirst. "Now, you return to the ministry and continue to pretend to be one of them. Meanwhile, you will carefully contact the old crowd. We need to keep certain individuals busy while we continue preparations."
MacNair nodded, "It would need to be something big and public, otherwise Fudge would hush it up."
Lucius grimaced at that, "We will need to deal with the fool faster than planned. Especially with his new ties to Potter and the return of the Blacks. It would need to be soon as well; I need something to distract the Aurors when I transport in material for the Dark Lord."
"The world cup is soon. What about that?" MacNair suggested with a shrug.
"Not a bad idea at all old friend, it's about the best we could get really." He tapped his lips with his finger in thought, "Yes, use some of the third circle members that are still loyal and rile them up. Get them to cause trouble and prove their worth at the World Cup. Embarrass the Minister before his guests."
MacNair chuckled darkly at that, "I'll get onto it as soon as I'm back." He paused for a moment and gestured towards where the woman had been, "And Jorkins?"
Lucius shrugged, "When she has served her purpose, we'll just dispose of her. The Dark Lord's Familiar would be sated for a while with something her size."
"Damn thing unnerves me," MacNair said as he shuddered in memory of the snake, "too much intelligence behind those eyes."
Lucius glanced at his peers and subtly aimed his wand at him, "Oh?"
MacNair shrugged and appeared to not have noticed Lucius' reaction, "Yeah. I know Familiars gain from their bonded, that's fine. But I'm sure the damn thing can understand English perfectly." He shuddered again in memory of seeing the monster at work, "Definitely want to keep clear of it if I can."
Lucius stared at the man for a moment, before nodding with him, "I understand, she is rather… impressive, isn't she?" Apparently, MacNair hadn't discovered the secret of the Dark Lord's Familiar, as such, he would be allowed to continue living.
"Impressive is a word," MacNair grimaced at that, "Anyway, I need to get the portkey back before I'm missed, I'll message you in the next few days when I have a group sorted for the World Cup."
"You do that," Lucius smiled at the man, "I'll speak to you later."
With a crack of displaced air, MacNair left the site and Lucius' smile faded, turning to the darkness of the forest, he knelt and bowed his head, "My Lady, I am ready to transport you back to your beloved."
Nagini slithered from the shadows and wrapped herself around Lucius, who struggled not to grunt as he stood under her weight, she hissed in his ear, and he struggled not to flinch at the sensation.
"On three, my Lady." He said as he raised his cane which glowed blue for a second, "One, two, three."
With a swirl of colours, the clearing was abandoned, and the silence returned to the depths of the tainted forest.
Draco looked up and down the street, waiting for Mad… for the target to make their way to the shop, the creepy presence of Barty hovered behind him under one of his father's recently acquired invisibility cloaks.
"There she is." Barty whispered to him, the focus in his voice even more disturbing than his usual manic flow of words.
Draco nodded and watched as the target entered the bookshop, he moved into position and watched as she collected a bundle from the shop clerk, timing matters for when she turned and began to leave the bookshop. A quiet crack of air came from the alley behind him, and he began to move.
With a cry of surprise, he slammed into the woman, and they dropped into a tangle on the path, quickly, he managed to place the portkey in her pocket as they struggled to return to their feet.
Draco apologised for the incident and gathered her now torn package of books together and returned them to their owner.
The target gave him a confused and sharp nod, accepting his apology and began to walk back to the school.
Draco quickly walked towards the Three Broomsticks and made sure he was seen as he purchased his lunch. A casual consumption of a warm meal and cool butterbeer used a suitable amount of time and his tip to Madame Rosmerta secured his alibi as he used the Floo to return home.
The moment he arrived, he hurried to his father's dungeon, there he found Madam Pince unconscious and stuck to a table, her clothing removed and Barty carefully examining each item from her purse in detail.
Draco glanced away in shock at the nudity of their victim which got a snort of amusement from Barty.
"Is this really necessary?" Draco asked as he gestured at the much older woman.
Barty looked at him with a cold look of amusement, "Did you know I wanted to be an actor? Father detested the idea, no son of his would be something so… lesser. It really drove me further into the craft, to examine every detail, to explore every nuance, inflection. To not just take on a role, but to delve into it, to truly become the role."
He waved the boy over, "Here, come look at these and tell me what you can tell about her from it."
Draco carefully moved across and looked at the items as they were gently laid before him. "She has a wand, a purse with some sickles, a few receipts, keys to her rooms," he looked over at her clothing, "her clothes are pretty normal for her. I don't see anything important."
Barty sighed in annoyance at him, "So much for the vaunted intellect and cunning of the Malfoys." He began to point at each item Draco had mentioned and explain what he saw, "Her wand, well cared for, discolouration of the handle and a small polished and discoloured section further up. She uses it a lot in her life, but handles a section on the length, likely as a nervous mannerism."
"Her purse," he gestured to the next section, "It contains Forty-three sickles and twelve knuts. No Galleons. The purse has a minor enchantment to prevent pickpockets, no other protections, the enchantment is performed by runes sewn into the inside of the purse, hand stitched, likely by herself. This is a woman of careful spending, thrifty and she has skills with runes, no great talent, but more than a middling interest."
"The receipts," he gestured to the sections of parchment, "date back to the start of the week, but no earlier. She is a librarian; she would store them if she was to keep them or throw them away otherwise. This suggests she has a routine for their storage. She has also kept all her receipts, reinforcing that she is careful of her spending. The salary of a school librarian wouldn't be that great, so she is likely saving every coin she can."
He pointed at the keys next, "These are of interest, she is a witch, she has a wand, why does she need keys? No, these are of importance in her duties, none of these are the right size for a castle's door, although it's possible that she shrinks and enlarges them as needed. I expect we will discover that these are for enchanted boxes or draws."
"Her hat and clothes," he gestured to the pile to one side, "are of a decent standard of quality, but still hard wearing, her hat has several feathers for decoration and an interesting banding. Her robes are of similar quality and materials, a lot of this is to display her appearance, she likes to be seen and noticed. She does not blend into the background well."
He gestured across to her underwear, "Again, an important detail to her character. Black underwear of good quality and detailing. Why would she wear something like this unless she wants to be seen in them or just to feel better while wearing them?"
He gestured to the woman herself, "Subtle makeup, good skincare and her hair is very well cared for. Physically fit, little to no fat." He picked up her hand after unsticking it from the table, "See here, these callouses and ink marks. She writes, a lot. She is known as a librarian, not a scholar, so she has hobbies and studies of her own."
He gestured over her again, "No stretch marks, few scars and none of note, likely accidents when young or when unable to afford a healer. Knowing her background a little, I can confirm that she has no children. No wedding ring either, so while she is in a relationship with someone she isn't married."
Barty restuck her hand and motioned for Draco to take a seat on a stool as he took one himself, "Now, all that gives us details, but you've seen her at work, and I remember her as a student when I was attending. Your father has supplied me with her employment records and a few notes. From all that, I can make a passable attempt at playing her on a stage."
Draco frowned at that, "But it's not a play, there is no stage."
Barty chuckled, "Life is the greatest stage young Malfoy. But you are right, I need more. So, I am going to use Legilimency and Veritaserum to explore her mind, to find out all the details I need to go deeper into the role, to not just play Madame Irma Pince but… to become her."
He leant forward into Draco's personal space, "And once I've finished my lessons, so are you."
With the noise of the busy city below drifting through the slightly open window, Harry glanced around the office, making note of the qualifications on the walls. He chuckled at a framed document of much different quality and detail than the others, "Worlds Bestest Dad?"
The Doctor chuckled as he twisted in his chair to look at the frame, "My eldest spent a lot of her childhood in my office, loved all my diploma's and certificates. She thought something was missing and she and my wife presented me that on my birthday." He smiled at the memory, "Made me dress up in robes for it and everything, she was very particular in making it all official when I received it."
The doctor sat back in his chair, "Now, before we begin, I must state that your sessions and that of your companion will be kept private from each other. I will not be discussing anything to each of you, the only one who will receive a report will be your Lord Black regarding Sirius. And that will be a general one of ways to help Sirius, there won't be details of anything, so don't even try to get me to discuss it further."
"No fear on that Doctor," Harry said as he shook his head and chuckled, "I'm here for me. Sirius will be dealt with by Lord Black, I'm just hoping that Sirius doesn't fight you on things."
The doctor nodded, "Good, and don't worry about Sirius, I've had much more difficult patients. So, we have two hours booked in for you and have plenty of time. I want you to know that if you wish, we can spend the whole time in silence if that's what you want, but if you want to talk, I'm listening."
Harry frowned at that, "I'm paying you to help me, so silence isn't going to help me, but talk about what?"
The Doctor smiled and gestured towards Harry, "Anything you want to."
Harry frowned and scratched the end of his nose, taking a deep breath, he sighed and looked at the Doctor, "So, before we get going, how much do you already know about me?"
Mundungus Fletcher sat in the meeting room, worrying a thread on the sleeve of his robes between his fingers as he waited for Potter to arrive. He kept his wand near to hand but not drawn, not wanting to cause problems before they happened. Not that Dumbledores recent attempt to kill him helped with his nerves.
He had honestly thought Guillermo was a friend, well, as much a friend as he could have in this life. But for the man to just attack him in the open street like that? It was madness.
It didn't matter now, Guillermo's brains had been splattered across the wall by the Aurors when he fought them as well. The smuggler was a cunning and quiet professional, Dumbledore must have really leant on the smuggler to get him to do something like that, who knows what blackmail the bastard had on the Smuggler. He would have wondered how he even knew of him, but it was obvious that Dumbledore had gotten his claws in the man. Perhaps he or his brother had been arrested and Dumbledore got them out in exchange for favours like he had done with him?
Mundungus sighed as he looked over the room again in nerves, if this went well, then he'd have a Patron no-one would risk messing with. Not without everything being brought into the light, and honestly, Mundungus wasn't really worth all that trouble to get rid of.
He'd already swept the room for listening enchantments or charms, sealed a few gaps and blocked them with minor conjurations to avoid being overhead. He'd even turned the painting and stuck it to the wall, a quickly scribbled rune sequence on the back and a splash of magic preventing any painted spies from overhearing anything.
He'd even checked under the table to make sure there was nothing hidden there either. He remembered his dad telling him about a sneaky bastard who had snuck a painting on the bottom of a table to spy on dealings amongst his rivals. Admittedly, that sneaky bastard was his dad, but it was the principle of it. If dad could think of it, then someone else could as well.
Checking his watch, he still had a minute to go before the agreed meeting time and he carefully dried his hands on a handkerchief to make sure he made a good impression. It was only his life that was on the line here, nothing too important he joked to himself in his head.
Taking a seat, he tried to portray an image of confidence but also submission, he didn't want to portray any form of dominance to the boy and his advisors. No need for a pissed off Werewolf going for him.
He flinched as he heard a slight pop and a small hand grabbed his ankle before he was dragged through a strange sensation, almost like skipping across the surface of an icy lake to be let go and fall slightly onto a soft surface in a pitch-black room.
Suddenly, the room lit up with a bright light and in the moment that he instinctively covered his eyes a flash of red turned his world black.
What could be a moment or hours later, his eyes snapped open, finding himself stuck to a cold brick wall, limbs spread eagled, and he was dressed in a thin paper gown. He blinked the confusion from his eyes as he tried to look into the darkness beyond the bright lights aimed towards him. To one side he could barely see a small table with his clothing and effects resting on them, neither his wand, nor his two spares rested there, and he couldn't feel the disillusioned holsters normally hidden on his arm or leg.
"Good evening, Mr Fletcher." An echoing voice called out from the dark, "I am the Lord Black. You sent a missive to my Ward, Harry Potter. It mentioned your services being offered in exchange for his patronage of you."
Mundungus swallowed his terror and managed to hold onto his bladders control at the sudden impact of the voice on his mind, "Aye. I'm a middleman and I acquire things. I've done work for powerful people, but I think I'm about to be disposed of. So, I wanted protection for my service."
There was a moment of silence before the voice of the so-called Lord Black echoed in his skull making him wince at the sensation, "Interesting. And what sort of things can you provide that I couldn't acquire in more legitimate manners?"
Mundungus allowed his mouth to run as he tried to work out how to escape his situation, "I've got lots of contacts, want something moved quietly or sold, I know a few guys. Want a potion in a hurry or without others knowing, I know a few Potioneers who do good work off the books or can acquire them quickly for a little extra coin. Goods or books that aren't for general sale, I know people who can get them. Want something from a rival, I can get a crew together to acquire it. I've got a lot to offer."
"Interesting," The voice slammed into his mind, and he winced at the pressure, "provide me an example Mr Fletcher, say I wished for a rival to be involved in a scandal, how would you handle it?"
Mundungus grimaced against the growing headache, "I need more information, who, how and how long do I have? Public scandal or blackmail?"
The voice chuckled which felt like icy razors along his spine, "Lucius Malfoy, a public and embarrassing scandal, something that would hurt his reputation and position but not break him. Two weeks."
Mundungus blinked as he ran it through his head, "Polyjuice, get photo's of him leaving a prostitutes place or one of the whore houses. Use a few contacts to get it to one of Rita Skeeter's rivals. Hair can be acquired in Diagon Alley or the Ministry of Magic when he's moving through. Alternative would be careful transfiguration if you couldn't get a hair, but that doesn't work as well if they want a memory of him spending time with a prostitute when investigating. I've got a guy who is willing to do a lot if you want to make the situation very uncomfortable."
"Interesting," the voice echoed, "And if I were to want some… texts that are forbidden in England?"
"I got a few contacts in Europe and the Middle East. Know a few guys in the colonies. Know one in Hong Kong. Depends on the book and who has a copy." Mundungus answered gaining a touch of confidence and strength to his voice as the fear receded, if he was going to die, he wasn't likely to have woken in the first place.
"Then We shall test you. I have four tests for you. Two books, an item and a supply of potion. I will provide you a list when we are done. You have 28 days, once complete, you will let me know where you are, how far into acquiring matters you are and the cost. I will make a fair reimbursement to your honest costs and will leave you a purse to begin your work for me. And to just reinforce matters, they will be honest costs, no trying to fill your own coffers, otherwise I will be very upset with you." The voice reverberated around Mundungus' skull. "Prove your worth to me and you will have not only Mr Potters protection, but my own. Fail, and you won't. It is quite simple."
Mundungus sighed and nodded in agreement to the offer.
"Oh," the voice echoed around the room, "I also require someone to perform a service for me. Someone who won't be missed, has no connections to chase them and one who is likely despised by those in your circles. Deliver them to the same room you waited for me in tomorrow at the same time, no later, you will tell them to wait and then you will leave. Return an hour later to collect your pay for your service. Understood?"
Mundungus nodded, "Yes sir!"
The red flash of a stunning spell came from the darkness and slammed into his gut.
The next thing he was aware of, he was sat in the same chair he had been waiting in, fully dressed, a quick check told him all his belongings were in the correct places, even those that were meant to be hidden. On the table in the room sat a sheet of parchment and a pouch that looked like it held a sizeable number of coins. He opened it with the tip of his wand to see the shine of galleons. On the parchment were a list of four things and a signature.
'Twenty doses of Polyjuice that would each last three hours.
A copy of the 'De Vermis Mysteriis'
A copy of 'On the Matter and the Deeds of Serpents'
Remember to get receipts.
Mundungus whimpered at that last item on the list, how was he meant to find a bloody myth? The rest, he could get or start hunting down, even the sacrifice for tomorrow, he had a few names in mind for that already, but a blade that inflicts wounds that don't heal? He just had to do the best he could, hunt down a few of the more obscure contacts he had to see if it was even real to begin with.
Merlin, the new Lord Black really knew how to make an impression. No. The signature was an obvious point and a test, Lord Black was not involved, he had been hired by Moriarty, no one else. He chuckled a little wondering how many others would believe that name was real in the long run or connect it to his new patron? Who would connect a Pureblood Lord with a family reputation like the Blacks to a muggle character in a story?
First, he had to see a man about a job and finally get rid up-jumped cutthroat who thought themselves untouchable.
Harry looked over the meeting room the Grangers had hired for the day, it was a nice room with pale wooden walls and a large window overlooking the golf course. A faint murmur from below said that the bar was busy, but lunch had started not long ago. He stood at the window, enjoying the warm sunlight on his skin while Greyshield looked through his books at the heavy wooden table, his guards stood around the room, ensuring their charges safety.
At the other end of the table, the adult Grangers sat looking through a separate set of paperwork. Rowan Brown was between them, going through papers from both sides and making notes. Harry smiled softly before he turned and moved back into the shadows of the room, "So, do any of you see a problem with the jobs I've requested?"
Helen looked at her husband who gave her a shrug and wince, turning back to look at Harry, she gave a soft smile, "Getting the paperwork sorted for the new business isn't too hard, but there are a lot of start-up costs which will be needed. We're also going to need to employ staff and get good accountants to make sure everything is above board. The biggest problem you'll have is that you have no reputation to draw business."
Greyshield nodded at that, "Indeed, your name and titles have power and influence on our side of the world, but amongst the non-magical, you are a troubled orphan who disappeared. You lack education credentials and your thrones backing for your titles for them to be of use on that side."
Harry nodded at that as he took a seat, "Understandable, so what do you suggest?"
Helen opened a file and passed him a glossy leaflet, "You need investors, and if what you have already designed can be created with current tech, this is likely the best man to get you going in the UK."
Harry looked at the leaflet and raised an eyebrow in surprise, "Why him?"
Menny chuckled, "Remember that speech about putting Hermione on another world first? He's the most likely man to challenge you over it. Get you both working on the case and it's much more likely to happen."
He opened the file and spread out the other leaflets, "Any of these would likely back you, but they're mostly abroad and be more interested in the money." He pointed at the leaflet in Harry's hand, "Him. He's another dreamer who will be right beside you in getting it done."
Harry closed his eyes for a moment and felt out with the Force, feeling it hum in anticipation, he nodded, "Okay," he looked at the Grangers, "You find me a decent site to start building and start interviews. Get the Security in place first using the resources we already have, then the managers to get the chain of authority in place, then fill the workers and scientists. We need to be fully self-sufficient from the start, no outsourcing."
He looked at Greyshield, "Am I able to cover all this?"
Greyshield winced, "For a year or two, maybe. It depends on your other spending. Your estate is much cheaper to maintain than a non-magical equivalent due to magic and elves. Much cheaper, does not mean cheap though. You have a lot of expenses bleeding out each month. Then your purchasing of debts to acquire your enemies money is working, but not at a great speed, the Lestrange's were easy as they couldn't fight back, many of your other enemies, are not so easy targets." He pushed forward a sheet of parchment to Harry, "As you can see, you could do it, but you would almost clear your accounts in full."
Harry sighed as he looked over the accounts, "Yeah… this is going to hurt a lot." He nodded to himself, "Can we get more funds in on the side projects?"
Greyshield shook his head, "Those are bleeding gold for the moment as many new businesses do. It takes time to stabilise and produce a profit." He gestured to a pile of Harry's notes in the middle of the table, "If we could get some of those built, prove they work and are replicable at a suitable cost, we could improve our gold flow and start rebuilding your war chest."
Menny cut in at that, "Which is why we suggested trying to get an investor to help."
With a grunt, Harry dropped into his chair and rubbed his face, before sighing and sitting back, "From what I can work out, I could produce prototypes of a few technologies without having to invent something else or use magic to replace parts." He pulled a few documents out of the pile, checking they were the correct ones before passing them around, "The problem is that they are niche technologies that build into other tech."
He grabbed a few more, "If I could hide the magic, or get some of my tutors to assist me, then I could probably get these to work as well. The issue is that the required gases aren't natural, so they'd have to be manufactured and the armour is designed to defend against the weapons rather than current ballistics." He opened another file and waved at it, "The same issue here, the basic technology isn't viable yet with what we have, but I can skip a few sections if I… cheat a bit."
Helen pointed at the rest of the pile in the middle, "And those?"
"They all require a set of technologies in the other files to work and some are just lists of queries and ideas I don't know how to do yet." Harry gestured to the files he had passed around, "Do you think any of these would get us the investors we need?"
Helen chuckled at that, "If we could get a few prototypes put together before the meeting, then I'm sure we could get them on board, but I have a question. Your issue is that you can't make some of this as you need technologies that don't exist just yet to make the parts." She looked around the room, "Couldn't you use magic to make the machines to make those machines and then make the parts?"
Rowan chuckled, "The issue there is the raw materials in question are missing." He patted the file in front of him, "But if we could work around that, then yes, that could be done."
Menny waved out the window, "Scientists can produce artificial elements already, we can synthesis chemicals that don't exist in nature, surely we could replicate some of the missing parts if we know what you are after."
Harry frowned and grabbed a few files and skimmed through them, "I didn't know that could be done." He grabbed a pen and wrote a few notes down, doing some calculations before nodding to himself. Looking up at his guests, he gave them a slightly mad grin, "If this gas can be made artificially, then this would allow me to force a few of the other designs to a workable state that I could go back and stabilise things after."
The manic grin faded into a normal smile as Harry sat back with a sigh, "Okay. Greyshield, break the Carrows. They have a mine they keep quiet about that can produce some of the raw materials we need later. While you are at it, make sure the Grangers have the funds they need to get started. They also need their home properly warding as fast as possible for their protection."
At Greyshield's nod, Harry turned to the muggles, "Menny, Helen, start getting the companies up and running, I need a lab set up to see if we can create the gas for Project Atalanta without having to use magic to do it. If I can get that gas and an emitter working, we can expand into getting a few other ideas progressing. I'll look into seeing if I can get some answers to make a few shortcuts to get us going faster. If I can, then we can turn back and build the root tech to get the chain working."
"Rowan," Harry picked up the leaflet and turned to the lawyer, "get a Floo network sorted for the Grangers and make sure its warded and secure. Then make contact with this Richard Branson and see if he would be interested in walking on another world personally."
Harry landed on the top of the cliff, the full moon shining above him still, his 'guest' under the Imperius, stood at an attempt at attention beside him. Leaning over the cliffs edge, he saw the sea slam against the stone of the cliff and sighed in annoyance. Grabbing his "guest's" arm, he apparated to the spear of rock by the cave entrance below, managing to time it for the water to be rushing away from the cave entrance.
A few quick steps and they were inside the wards that now they detected a wizard present, stopped the water from filling the cave.
Moving to the section of wall that looked the same as the rest but was really the entrance to the hidden chamber, Harry forced his will on his 'guest' who quickly marched forward and slid his hand over the razor-sharp rock and bled onto the water darkened stone. Harry quickly tore the ragged sleeve from his guest's shirt and wrapped his hand in it to stop the bleeding. It's not like his guest having his wound infected was really anything for Harry to be concerned about.
Harry quickly drew his wand and cast an overpowered and modified Lumos to act as a flare that floated in the lightless chamber before them.
A short stride in silence brought them to the edge of the lake, there, he placed his hand over the water and used the Force to summon the hidden chain from under the water. With it, a small boat rose from the depths and Harry ordered his guest to get on the boat and then joined him.
The boat immediately began to move across the mirror flat water, the boats passage the only source of ripples to occur over the mirrorlike It was a useful illusion, the light an individual would bring into the chamber would reflect off the water and hide the denizens below from sight unless you were directly overhead, and you looked down into the dark depths below.
Within a few minutes, the boat ground itself on the islands shore at the centre of the immense chamber,
likely a small cave that had been heavily expanded through space extension charms by Voldemort. A natural cavern of this scale under the land above would have been discovered long ago.
There was also the fact that the cavern roof was actually higher than the cliff top itself. Many wouldn't realise it and if a wizard tried to undo the enchantment, then the contents would either crush an invader or spill out into the surroundings to cause havoc in that way. An Inferi invasion along the local coast would be an absolute mess to resolve without breaching the Statute.
There, the light had shifted to a lurid and sickly green hue, so he let the Lumos spell above collapse, leaving the glow of the potion in its bowl remain as a light source in the abyssal darkness around them.
He felt the Dark Side surge as the defences began to ready themselves, a thousand pinpricks and more of enchantment in the depths stirring and waiting for their trigger to allow them to act. Harry allowed himself to admire the simplicity and threat in the Inferi being bound to the defences, it was a work of art in balancing triggers and affects.
The difference between the Defence Post Curse and this was like night and day. The curse was crafted like an apprentice fresh to their craft, while this cave was the work of a master with decades of experience behind them.
"Kneel," Harry commanded his 'guest' as he then grabbed the cup formed from a shell and began to scoop portions of the potion to be drunk, "Drink and do not stop until I command otherwise."
It took a few minutes and a few reapplications of the Imperius to finish the bowl, leaving its valuable contents within reach. Harry stared down at the nameless 'guest', his mind now shattered under the strain of the potion. No real loss to be fair, it wasn't like he was really using it for anything important anyway.
"Happy early birthday present to me." Harry muttered as he dropped the shell-like cup and removed the Horcrux from the safety of its bowl. He reached out with the Force to use this link to ripple back to the others and frowned as he felt… nothing.
He blinked and hissed at the jewellery to open, and it again did nothing.
Frantically, he opened the catch and blinked at the sound of a wax seal breaking, within the perfect replica of Slytherins Locket a sheet of folded parchment sat, waiting for him to read it.
With shaky fingers he unfolded the parchment to read the message contained.
"Motherfucker!" He yelled as he struggled to contain his rage at finding someone had beaten him to getting the Locket. His arm went back to throw the item into the lake before he stopped himself, running through the mental exercises from his mother's book to stop, calm himself and think.
He would need to get something nice for McGonagall at some point in thanks for the gift.
With a sigh, Harry flattened out the now crumpled parchment and folded it, almost returning it to the locket before he stopped and glanced at it again. This RAB was a pureblood who had turned on Voldemort, cunning and smart with resources to do this. To bypass all the defences without triggering them showed a knowledge and drive that together suggested either a Ravenclaw or a Slytherin, but none came to mind.
Gently, he closed the locket, using the Force to reseal the wax to prevent it filling with the potion and ruining the parchment, he returned it to the bowls embrace and watched as the bowl's enchantments began to refill the potion until it stopped. Carefully, he gathered the cup and cleaned it of any evidence of handling or use and returned it to its resting spot.
He glanced at the 'guest' who lay drooling and twitching before gesturing at him with the Force and sending the body in an arc into the deeper waters of the lake, watching as pale hands broke the obsidian-like mirrored surface of the water to drag the man into the depths.
Taking his time and being as careful as he could, he returned to the boat and restored everything back to the way it had been when he arrived.
Harry sighed as he stood outside the cave, the entrance sealing itself behind him as he watched the waves slowly carve away at the stone around him. "Well, good old Tom is going to have a nasty surprise when he tries to collect it. Now to find out who the hell this RAB is and get the locket back from him."
With a crack of displaced air, Harry was gone and the wards holding the water back returned to their slumber, letting the next wave to arrive and slam into the depths of the cave, soaking the surface with cold salt water once more, washing away the blood from the stone and any traces of visitors from the cave's presence.
Voldemort looked over his current form in the mirror with a grimace, the House Elves kept their silence as did the mirror as he considered how the ritual had shaped this form. While he lacked strength, in this childish shape, he could actually manage to do a few things for himself, unlike if he had used a filthy muggle as the vessel in his original plan. It was fortuitous that Lucius had returned to him at the time he did.
His flesh was the expected pale appearance he had expected, his nerves raw and painful at all times, his eyes felt like needles were stabbing them in bright light and a strange noise kept disturbing him until he realised it was the pulse of what counted for blood pumping through this bodies flesh. All these would fade in time as he grew accustomed to this new shell of flesh.
Had he used a filthy muggle as the vessel as he had initially planned, he would have had to rely completely on one of his minions which would have been galling. He could show no weakness before his inner circle, he had chosen them for their skills and loyalty, but had to balance that against their ambitions and hunger for power.
If they could have taken it from him in a moment of weakness, he would not have blamed them, after all, it's what he would have done in their place. Admittedly he would have succeeded where they would have failed, but again that was understandable. Few could be as magnificent as he was.
No, he could not blame them, punish them? Oh yes and dramatically so, but never blame them for such hungers.
Nagini was slumbering by the fire beside him after consuming the vessel, now that the woman was of no further use to him, her mind and magic shattered under the strain of the birth of this form. Perhaps, one day, he may ask Lucius for her name for the histories, after all, such sacrifices for his glory should not be forgotten.
Voldemort waved the elves away, before carefully taking the small bell that rested by his hand and rang it.
A few moments later, Barty Crouch knelt before him, Lucius soon following with his pale and weak son beside him as they knelt alongside one of his most faithful servants.
"Barty, you are aware of your mission." His burning red eyes fell on the shivering form of the Malfoy heir, his lips sneering at the obvious weakness in the child, "You have begun to educate the boy?"
Crouch nodded his bowed head, "Yes, my Lord. He has some skill and would be a useful asset to me in my mission."
"Oh, how so?" Voldemort looked at his servant in curiosity, "Does a female form suit him better?"
Barty gestured towards the child, "He has extensive connections in the most noble house of your ancestors. He will be able to act on my behalf without drawing Dumbledores attention before it is too late to act against you. He will be smuggling some of the resources into the school."
Voldemort grunted at that, "Dumbledore. I look forward to carving the flesh from his bones as I despoil it." He sighed in pleasure at the images in his mind before returning his focus upon his servants. "Very well Barty, I shall take you at your word that the boy is of use to you in this." He glared at the child, "Serve me well and you will be well rewarded. I do not suggest any other result."
Turning his focus upon the elder Malfoy, Voldemort continued, "Snape is too deep in the enemy camp to call upon at this time. Seek out a suitable potioneer to provide Barty the potions he requires. We cannot afford the risk of overdosing or toxin build up ruining matters." He paused a moment to make sure the man was listening properly, "The longer it takes, the more likely your son will have to take on Barty's mission to allow him to cleanse his body from the build-up of impurities."
Lucius, to his credit, didn't flinch or react to the threat upon his son's virtue. "As you command my Lord." He gestured towards a pile of papers on the table, "As you are aware, we have Imperiused the muggle groundskeeper of the ritual location. He will be acquiring us the resources for the ritual and its setup that he is able. I have agents after the more exotic parts already. However, we are in need of a distraction to avoid issues with the borders."
Voldemort nodded at that, "Indeed. MacNair's plan is basic enough but lacks the ambition I expected of him." He waved towards Barty, "Perhaps he has gotten soft in his old age?"
Barty laughed at his master's wit and humour, "As you say my Lord. Would you wish for me to dispose of him?"
Voldemort laughed at that before wheezing at the strain on his new lungs. After coughing a few times to fill his lungs, he continued, "No Barty, no need for that yet." He focused back on the older Malfoy, "Lucius, you will adapt the plan as follows. One team composed of third circle members are to Imperius a few of Dumbledores loyalists to attack the camp and cause mayhem and embarrass the Ministry. A second team will acquire a few Mudbloods and Imperius them to attack the Minister directly. A third team of the best available are to strike at either Bones or Scrimgeour, either or both, I care not, as long as one of them is dead at the end of the attack."
Lucius nodded at that, "It shall be as you command my Lord. I shall have a list of options available for you to decide upon the replacement for the deceased."
Voldemort nodded with a grin at that, he pointed at the boy's face, "See child, that is the ambition and loyalty I expect of those who serve me." He sighed as he sat back in his chair, waiting a moment before waving them away, "Go. See to your duties."
He sneered as the boy scrambled to escape while his servants carefully stood and left the room respectfully without insulting him by showing him their backs.
He reached down and ran a gentle caress along Nagini's skull, "Good help is so hard to find these days, isn't it my beauty. Don't worry, once we have access to Dumbledores collection, I am sure we can find what we seek."
Harry smiled as the last of his guests left his new home, the Former Lestrange Estate made an excellent venue for the small party he had just survived. It didn't help that Cornelius was doing his usual political gladhanding with all the adults present.
Hermione was waiting for him in the library, well the safe one anyway. Helen and Menny had been impressed with the Estate when they arrived and already withdrawn to their guest room, exhausted by the sheer flood of new experiences and information.
Narcissa was making sure the last guests that were staying were able to find their rooms and Petunia was going to spend the next few hours cleaning up the ballroom while Dudley got some well-earned sleep in the servants' quarters. It had been remarkable that he hadn't fled in terror at the sight of Hagrid, although Hagrid's apology for his actions when they first met may have helped on that front. Perhaps he should take a more direct hand in the boy's education, refine the investment into something more suitable for the future?
Dudley was meant to be a throw away asset, but perhaps he could be shaped into something long term and more worthwhile. He paused as he neared the Library, Dudley's school was an old boy's sort of school, lots of connections and children of influential people. Perhaps Dudley could be guided towards politics.
The image of Dudley Dursley, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, popped into his mind for a moment and he mentally chuckled at the potential of the idea. Perhaps it should be pushed into the boy's head. It would take a lot of work, but if it came to be, the sheer potential of the opportunity was worth the effort. He would have to have words with him in the morning exercises.
Returning to the moment, he smiled as he entered the room and took a moment to watch Hermione as she carefully read the illuminated script of the old text before her. He gave a small smile as he felt her tense at his presence entering the room, but immediately relax when she recognised him. And all that without even looking at him, just reading the flow of the Force around her.
"I'm surprised it took you this long to give in and start reading." Harry noted with a chuckle.
"It was practically torturous to know this was here all day and not be able to have a look," Hermione smiled at him, "You do know, I'm going to want to read a lot of these books."
Harry laughed at that, "These ones or the more… exotic ones?"
At the look of curiosity mixed with hunger, he shook his head in amusement, "I'm not going to stop you looking at them, but there's a reason they are locked away. Let's get you to the point where you can safely handle them before you try and break into the room."
"No promises," Hermione muttered before she carefully shut the book before her and gently stroked the bindings as she returned it to its shelf, "So, you were going to teach your languages to me?"
Harry sighed, "In a way." He gestured to the chairs by the unlit fireplace, taking his usual spot, he relaxed back and pondered how to explain this to her. As she took the offered seat, he nodded and leant slightly forward, focusing his entire attention on her. "First of all, it's not a skill as such, more an enchantment that is bound into my mind."
He frowned as he thought how to explain it clearly before he used the Force to pull a small table between them and he then conjured a bowl and filled it with red balls and then made a few blue ones to rest on the table.
Gesturing to the red balls in the bowl, he continued, "These are the languages held in my mind and bound to the enchantment. I would still retain them without the enchantment, as they are already there, but I would have to work the normal way to acquire more." He gestured to the blue balls, "These are your languages in your mind."
"First, I will have to copy the base enchantment into your mind in order to allow you to absorb the language itself." He said as he pointed to the bowl and conjured another beside it. Picking up the blue balls, he dropped them into the new bowl, "You will likely find that you will pick up a few fragments you previously missed, and your accent would shift to a more natural form of the person you refined your knowledge from. Likely your tutors as the skill settles in your mind."
He then picked up a red ball from his bowl and rested it in his palm, "The next stage, is for me to create a copy of the new language," the ball split in his palm to form a duplicate, "And then move this into your mind, where the enchantment will act and settle it into your mind in a much more comfortable fashion than if I tried to cram it into your mind myself."
He dropped the original ball back into his bowl and the new red one into her bowl, he gestured, and the ball began to turn blue, "With practice and careful meditation, it should be absorbed into you without issue, thus you will have all the skill and knowledge that I have for yourself."
Hermione remained silent through the impromptu lesson, before prodding the now blue ball in thought, "What about other skills and knowledge? Can this be done the same way?"
Harry frowned at that, "Technically yes, but I would be tricking the enchantment to I'm just ordering my mind with occlumency. Unfortunately, the enchantment is very specific in its construction, so unlike a language, it would not be so much copying the information, but rather moving it fully."
"Perhaps, in time, with a lot of research and experimentation, I would be able to create a new form of the enchantment to deal with other skills, but I lack the knowledge, ability or time to even begin such a journey and there is only the version in my mind to examine for now. If all goes well, then you will also have a copy of it, but I doubt I would be able to trust others enough to attempt the transfer."
"Now," He sat back a bit, "First, there's the issue with trying it with another skill. If I were to want to learn all Professor McGonagall knew about transfiguration, I could take it from her mind and put it in my own, but it would be her experiences and knowledge, the memories would be hers, habits and mannerisms would be hers."
"And here is the price," he said with a raised finger to focus her attention, "I would be taking it from her, leaving nothing behind. I would have everything, and she would have nothing of the subject remaining. All gone. And she would have to learn it all from scratch again."
Hermione sat back in horror at that, "And if you gave me the knowledge of something it would be the same?"
Harry grimaced as he nodded at her comment, "For everything other than languages and that's only due to the enchantment that I had immense luck in acquiring. And there is a greater danger. What if I transferred too much to you? Technically, I could put enough of me in your head where you stop being you and instead, you become me with some of your memories."
She blinked in shock at that, "No offense Harry, but I'd rather be me if you don't mind, so just the languages and nothing else, you can teach me the rest the long way."
Harry chuckled at that, "No offense taken Hermione, I much prefer having you over me in your body." He paused at his choice of words and blushed at the imagery that brought to mind before he slammed his control back down, she was too young to have thoughts like that right now about her.
Hermione watched the flush of the blush on his cheeks before he closed his eyes and calmed himself for a moment, running over his last sentence again, she wondered why would he…? Oh. OH! She blushed herself as she caught the unexpected innuendo in his words, whether he meant them or not, his blush said he was interested in her and liked the idea. Something she could ponder later for herself.
She shook her head and focused back on the subject she was being taught, "So I'll be speaking these languages from the… transfer with no issues?"
Harry wobbled his hand for a moment before gesturing to the bowl with the blue balls and one turned red, "Not quite." He picked up a few more balls and she watched them split as the first one did and then he dropped the new ones in her bowl and returned his to the original bowl. "When I transfer the languages, you will have them. But they will be my knowledge, you will have all the words and their meaning, but you will lack the grammar to speak them properly. It will be there as well, but you will need to practice the language to settle it properly."
He gestured to one of the red balls in her bowl and it slowly began to turn blue, "As you do so, it will settle in your mind and become a naturally used skill, the only issue will be cultural words or colloquialisms which require a knowledge of the culture behind the language. But I can teach you and explain those as we practice."
At her smile, he removed his magic from the conjurations, and they faded away, the table smoothly returning to its original place, "But all this requires that your mind can safely accept the enchantment. Which is why I required that your occlumency to be advanced to a certain minimum level and that you can defend your mind enough to prevent others causing damage if they attack. Until these languages are absorbed into your mind properly, a sufficient jolt from an attack could break them lose and they could do serious damage to you. The least is that you lose the language, the worst is that it overwrites everything and all that is left is the language."
Hermione smiled and nodded at him, "I got that impression from your offer Harry, and I accept all the risks and have prepared as best I can to protect my mind."
"Good," Harry said with a proud smile, "Which is why I need to test your defences first to see if you are ready."
Hermione nodded and focused her gaze on his, "Whenever you are ready, go ahead, I trust you."
Harry winced at that, "Hermione… if you trust me, you will let me past your defences. You need to fight me with everything you have." He sighed and rubbed his face as he tried to find the right words to show how important this was. "Right, I need you to understand me completely Hermione."
He made she he kept her gaze as he leant forward and continued, willing her to understand the necessity of what he was about to do. "It won't be Harry, your best friend that is entering your mind. I'm going to be as brutal and cruel as Snape can try. I will be looking to hurt you, draw your private memories and secrets to the surface. I will throw my power behind my attempt; I am not going to make the attempt like a wizard will with their understanding of the world and magic. This will be my entire focus, my entire knowledge and ability to break in and through to your mind. You must hold nothing back in your defences." He paused as he watched the emotions ripple across her face and eyes, "Do you understand?"
Hermione paused and closed her eyes for a moment before nodding and meeting his gaze with a fire in their depths, "I understand."
He gave her a sad smile, "Good," he palmed his wand into his hand from his sleeve and carefully pointed it toward her head, "Now, don't think about the times you wet the bed. Legilimens!"
Before she could bring all her defences to bear and riding her shock of trying not to think about what embarrassing memory he could be searching for, which in turn would bring them to the surface of her mind., Harry entered her mind, to immediately pause as he rapidly defended his mental construct.
Wrapping himself in his armour, the hiss of air began to flow around him, and the abyssal cold of the void faded to the life support systems heat, leaving a faint tingle that soon faded. With a quick look around, he found himself in the depths of space, a star shone in the far distance, dull and red. There were no signs of a nearby planet, and he only spotted the mass in the dark when he turned using his backpack thrusters.
Behind him drifted an immense black and silver cube with faint green lights within its structure. The surface was an immense mess, no armour panels protected the internals from attack, there seemed to be no order or patterns that he could detect. There was no air resistance in space, so a cube was just as viable a design as any other, but everything about it felt… wrong.
It was difficult to work out the scale of the vessel, but he rapidly willed himself to reach its surface before whatever defences Hermione had designed began to fight him. To be fair, to blitzkrieg through before your enemy could fight you was a perfectly valid tactic.
He saw some large gaps open to space on the surface of the cube and rushed towards them, quickly realising the sheer scale of the structure before him. It was difficult to tell, but it must be at least two star destroyers in length against each edge. As he quickly looked around as he neared one of the many gaps in the vessels surface, he felt a faint tingle wash over him and behind him a faint ripple of green filled the space behind him like a wall or shield.
She would need to practice improving that mental speed of defending herself as there was a large enough gap before a skilled attacker could bypass it entirely as he had.
Moving from the hull of the vessel through one of many gaps, something else she would need to deal with, he entered the vessel and was surprised at the sudden change of environment as if simply walking from one room to another.
Checking the panel on his arm, his suit informed him that it was a clean 1 Earth Gravity with a steady thirty-nine point one degrees Celsius, ninety two percent relative humidity and a pressure of one hundred and two kPa. He raised an eyebrow at the exactness of the environment and presumed it must have something to do with the imagery Hermione was using. So, an oppressive muggy environment that was more than uncomfortably hot with a slightly higher pressure than normal on earth. In addition, the area was badly lit, with only a few light sources of that vivid green to break up the darkness.
All in all, a nasty and unfriendly environment. But still easy enough to bypass with technology or magic. The best defence so far is what appeared to be the sheer maze-like nature of the vessel itself.
Before he could take a step further into the ship, his helmet comms hissed as it was hacked and a multi-voiced message that echoed and overlayed itself hammered into his ears, "We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is Futile."
Waiting for a moment with his wand in his left hand and his lightsaber hilt in his right, he sensed no further threats to his person and began to advance into the maze. At every fork or crossroads, he paused and reached out with the Force to find his way through the maze.
After more than a dozen twists and turns and at least twice that he was sure he turned back on himself, he came to an immense chamber that the walls of were covered in walkways and alcoves. In each alcove stood a humanoid figure in black armour and cybernetics that looked horrifyingly painful both in implantation and potential use.
Looking up and down, he guessed that there must be thousands of alcoves, each with an individual within. He pondered the matter and wondered if these were the representations of her memories and looked to examine one.
A tall female of a species he didn't recognise stood within, near human from a quick look, taller and well built, the dark flesh pale and gaunt, dark veins ran under the surface of the flesh and pulsed with the lights of the ship. The cranial ridge was an interesting detail and intricate in detailing, sharp teeth and a strong looking jaw, well, what was left of it from the cybernetics that had been driven into the flesh.
There was no sense of uniqueness to the individual, they felt hollow within the mindscape, empty. He stepped back and glanced at the next, different species, different gender at a quick guess, different cybernetics, but all that black metal with red and green lights. The next was identical, only in its unique appearance and hollow nature.
Allowing himself a shiver of discomfort, he began to continue his journey and as he passed the tenth humanoid in an alcove, a background noise he had ignored gained in pitch slightly. Pausing, he turned to the alcove he was passing and frowned as the green lighting that glowed behind the humanoids head brightened and the humanoids eye opened and immediately focused upon him.
Hurrying forward, Harry managed to pass another three before, with a unified thunder of a single step of boots on metal walkway, each individual took a step forward both before and behind him.
"We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is Futile." The words were spoken by each individual in unison around him, the sound carrying from other walkways and walls of the chamber followed shortly after like a macabre echo.
The one to his right raised its hand and arm with a set of tools which unfolded it a disturbing way to reveal a sawblade which began to whir at a tone that immediately set his teeth on edge.
Deciding that he had been polite enough so far, Harry flicked his wand and a pulse of magic annihilated the individual, splattering the alcove with gore that was disturbingly accurate in appearance. Harry was just thankful that his armour was environmentally sealed as he didn't fancy discovering if Hermione had managed to replicate the smell as well.
With a series of flicks, a series of Bombarda flashed out and began annihilating his targets, until something happened that made him pause for an almost fatal moment. The spell splashed over his target and did nothing bar ripple the air in a distorted amber glow around it.
He cast again and this time, the air just seemed to solidify as amber and absorb the spell.
Swearing, he shifted to a reductor and that worked for about five or six spells, before it too, began to be absorbed by the strange amber glow in the air around his targets. The cutting curse had the same lifespan as the others and a quick shift to a Bombarda just gave him the amber glow once again.
A flame whip lashed out and struck a group and carved into their flesh and he hurried into the gap to gain some breathing room. Four more whips and that spell was adapted to as well.
"We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is Futile." Was repeated, again and again, the noise hammering into his ears through a thousand voices as they just kept coming. They ignored their dead and injured, moving as one unified mass, blocking corridors, and closing in on him.
He finally ignited his lightsaber and the burning green blade the colour of his eyes carved through several of the individuals with little to no trouble, but then he felt it. Slowly, strike by strike, they felt denser, it took more effort to cut through them and he snarled at the faint amber glow around the blade as it struck another enemy.
They were adapting to the energy of the blade as well.
The squeal of metal impacting metal echoed through his armour as one of them struck him. Carving into the armoured panel with effort, but if one could do that, then the others could as well.
Their motions shifted from striking weapons and tools to grasping hands as they tried to grab and pin his limbs from moving with the weight of their bodies. One of them jabbed its arm forward and Harry watched in horror as a pair of thin protuberances snapped forward from its wrist to crack his visor, the armoured material distorting as a black and metallic looking liquid began to fill the crack and spread.
A thrust of his wand slammed a wall of water into his attacker and the group around him, knocking them back and breaking him free of the mob. He rapidly gave his wand a quick twist and a spell to freeze the water with the enemy caught within. Rushing over the obstacle, he yanked his helmet away from his face and cast it aside as he turned off his lightsabre and clipped it to his belt before he pulled his father's cloak from a pouch and wrapped himself in its protection.
The moment he was wrapped in the silvery caress of the mental construct based upon his family heirloom, each of the individuals paused and began looking around for him for a few minutes before returning to their alcoves.
Sighing in relief, Harry kept the cloak around him as he continued following the direction the Force was guiding him towards. A silently cast bubble head charm made sure he was breathing clean air and drove back the stench of the ruptured bodies around him and the metallic tone of the atmosphere as well.
Minutes later, he came across something that gave him pause even more than the alcoves dotted around the depths of the vessel.
A black resin smeared across one of the glowing panels of the ships systems, a thin mist hung against the ground and he recognised this from the Room of Requirement when Hermione was testing its abilities. He never got around to watching the film it was based upon, but he was now both glad and worried by that. The few conversations regarding it he had overheard were enough to worry him.
He knew it was enough for the concept alone, to scare Jane, but he had seen horrors of his own and his imagination began to play tricks on him at how much worse these things could be.
Taking a deep breath, he focused his mind and began to walk deeper, the sensation guiding him deeper into this… what did the ladies call it? Ah, yes… Hive.
Gently, he moved deeper, careful to watch above and below him as he had been distinctly trained to not fall for that problem in combat. The Resin grew worse until, there was no sign of the vessel itself, only the resin. No lights shone now, only the abyssal dark around them. Carefully, Harry cast a variant of Lumos that made fireflies of light that flew forward and landed on the surfaces, gently lighting his way and showing where the surfaces were.
Here and there, large leathery bulbs rested, usually, just out of sight so that you would turn a corner and almost bump into one. Their tops looked like an obscene flower or perhaps a mouth. As he neared them, the fleshy panels would quiver slightly as if they detected him before they settled once more.
Step by step, he carefully moved through the dark, silently sending more fireflies ahead of him to guide his way until he turned a corner, close to the resin and his foot caught a metal pipe that broke through the surface.
The noise echoed through the tunnels around him, and he realised that it was silent within these walls. No thrum or vibration of the vessel around them to hide anything in the background noise.
From around him, faint hisses echoed and from the edge of his vision, a section of the wall uncurled, and a long tail stretched across the floor, to gently wave near the pipe, its motion hidden within the mist that drifted near the floor.
Three slow and lazy drifts and the tail returned to the wall, coiling back around the vague form within all the curves and lumps of the resin.
With distinct care and attention, Harry waited before continuing his way.
Another few minutes and he came to an opening into a large chamber.
There, merged partially into the walls and roof of the chamber rested an immense creature, long and thin of limb, he recognised the power and strength within its form. With a simple shrug, it would be able to tear a man apart were it only to grab hold of them. A large crest flowed back from its head, like that of a nightmarish triceratops to protect its back. A large sack of almost clear material pulsed behind it as he watched a shadow move through the sack from the creature towards an opening which dropped one of the leathery bulbs to the ground, covered in a thin slime or goo. A leathery bulb amongst hundreds more.
Okay… so there was a nightmarish queen bee that was laying eggs as a mental defence that Hermione was happy to use to defend her mind. That meant that Hermione had bult a defence around using them. What in the name of the Force could eggs do to an attacker? He paused and decided he didn't want to know.
Looking back over the chamber, he spotted something that didn't fit within the scene.
There was a light source.
Beneath the chest of the large… queen, he saw a pillar of stone which rose to about chest height, carved with runes and hieroglyphs, a dull red light glowing from within which made it hard to read them, but not impossible. On the top of the pillar rested a plush velvet cushion and on that was another cube. This time a polished bronze and dark wood with intricate and delicate patterning on its surface.
That must be where Hermione stored her most precious memories, in some kind of ornate puzzle box.
He was about to step forward to summon the box to his hand when he realised something so much worse than what he had been expecting.
The Queen was looking right at him.
It had no eyes to see him, he was wrapped in his mental construct of his father's cloak and should be invisible to the senses, but still, the damn thing knew exactly where he was, and he came to a realisation.
Hermione knew about the cloak. She knew it and others like it existed, so why would she not defend against such an attack.
The only warning he had was his gut instinct of danger as something unfolded from the roof behind him.
He spun around, his wand raising to defend himself when he felt large hands with a grip stronger than a wookies grab his arms and chest and easily lift him from the floor with his limbs pinned to his sides. Looking up he stared directly into a maw of silver teeth against a black carapace slowly opening with a nightmarish hiss to reveal a second smaller mouth within, the secondary set of teeth slowly opened, the muscles around the second mouth begin to tense and, in his horror, and shock, he pointed his wand towards the chest of the monster and screamed out "Bombarda!"
With an explosion of carapace and green gore, Harry was freed from its grasp, luckily, none of the gore having landed on his un-helmeted head. But then the liquid finished burning through his armour and he began to scream anyway.
Ignoring the fact that each of the mental constructs was a seven to eight foot killing machine, the final vector of attack was that the acid blood was a sympathetic link to the attackers' memories. The victim of the effect would see green gore land on them and start to eat into their defences, when it contacts the psychic constructs 'flesh', it would then be enough for the victim to fill in the gaps themselves.
Because of the strong hiss of the acid and the speed it devoured even metal, they would fill the expected sensation of acid burning through their flesh with the most painful memory of such a sensation they had. Anyone who had ever burnt themselves with heat or hot liquid would feel that fresh sensation on their nerves. Anyone who had experienced acid burns would feel that once more as their flesh bubbled under the splash.
But Harry, had suffered under the Cruciatus. For him, and those like him, every nerve that the liquid touched, ignited with the memory of that moment as if it had just happened.
Cast from Hermione's mind by the sheer agony of that moment, Harry screamed and collapsed to the ground, his body shuddering as he felt the Cruciatus melting through the flesh of his chest and limbs where the green gore of the monster had splashed across him.
Gasping in remembered pain, he watched as Hermione rushed over and checked over his hands, arms and face, gently talking him through moving the limb and digits, checking that he retained sensation where the acid had impacted his mental construct.
After a few minutes of panic, Harry grunted in self focused annoyance as Hermione helped him back to his chair and he looked over to see Jane standing by the door with a worried looking Dobby beside her.
"We're good." He sighed as the phantom pain faded from his mind, "Hermione's occlumency defences caught me by surprise is all."
Jane raised a hand to stop Hermione as she was about to say something. "No. You both rest up, then you can carry on another time. I'm too tired to keep an eye on things right now and we don't want your guests being woken by their host screaming in agony."
She gestured towards the bedrooms, "Go sleep and we can discuss this tomorrow and work it out from there. We have a few days before the World Cup, so there's plenty of time for you both to test and sort things out."
Jane began to walk out the room before stopping, "I'm just going to say that if her defences can stop you like that, then I think she should be good for the moment to hide whatever shenanigans you two are up to. Just don't do anything stupid. Please."
"Yeah." Harry nodded at that, "Night Jane, I'm going straight to bed now." He turned to Hermione to see her on the edge of tears, he ran a finger along her cheek, "No. No tears. You did really well. I'm sure it will take a lot more to get through into your mind and a lot of time people don't have to do so. You should be good. So, go to bed, rest up and we'll discuss it in more detail tomorrow when we can. You did well Hermione, never doubt that."
With a grunt, he stood up and lead her to her room, giving her a long hug at the door, to relax her and let her know he was alright before she went to bed, and he went to his own room to sleep.
If there was one thing you could say about Hermione Granger, she never did anything by halves.
Having had a fitful sleep with nightmares of metal teeth and burning blood, Harry ate his breakfast in contemplative silence before returning to the library with Hermione. Narcissa was wandering the gardens with Helen as they discussed the differing fashions of their worlds and Sirius followed in bemused confusion at Narcissa's passion on the subject. Menny simply walked beside Sirius with a small smile, enjoying the fact that Helen had a new source of information to mine.
Dobby brought them some tea and biscuits before popping away to make sure Petunia was performing her proper duties and not bemoaning her existence with Remus Lupin in the kitchen again. It was a little disturbing to see them get along so well, but strangely they suited each other. Remus too soft to fight and Petunia domineering.
His mind drifted to places he really did not appreciate and shuddered before locking that image away in the depths of his mental fortress.
The werewolf was a cowardly fool, much too loyal to Dumbledore for his own good. But his guilt was easily wielded as a whip to keep him focused. His skills and knowledge were too useful to ignore and once the summer was over, he would be teaching the magical children of werewolves and those afflicted with the curse to bring them to a suitable standard for Harry's long-term plans.
If there was one thing Harry had learned about werewolves, once you gained their loyalty it was hard for them to break away. You just had to be careful not to damage it too much and they would do nearly anything to keep feeling of value.
Under Narcissa's advice, and with Cornelius' quiet assistance, he had converted a Lestrange summer home on the Devon coast near Coleton to be the new school, hidden from the few muggle neighbours and a good region of land to run around on under the full moon. Greyshield was still negotiating with the Lancebreaker Clan for suitable wards to contain the students, but that should be resolved soon enough.
As Hermione settled with a cup of tea, Harry pondered if he should deal with Greyback publicly to just make him disappear? Let him fade from memory or to destroy his legend?
He sighed as he settled into the comfortable chair, his muscles still aching from last night's experiences. And not in a good way he thought as he glanced at Hermione's long fingers. With an annoyed grunt at his hormones, he cleared his mind again and focused his attention on his future peer.
For that was a major goal in his plans, to raise Hermione Granger to the power and skill that he himself wielded. Together, they would be a force of nature that few could stand against and even fewer would be a threat to.
But that was all in the future, today, he needed to progress the plan and discuss Hermione's defences.
Deciding that she had waited enough, Hermione began to speak, "So, what did you think?"
Harry gave her an honest smile and nod, "Impressive in some ways, very impressive. In others, worryingly weak. Were your memories in the box or the plinth?"
"Neither" Hermione laughed, "There's nothing there, it's all a sunken cost fallacy."
Harry frowned and motioned for her to continue, "Can you expand on that?"
"A sunken cost fallacy is where you pour more resources into something that is failing. You know it's not working, but you can't give up on it. So more and more goes into it until it all collapses." She gestured to him, "You don't know the shows, so you saw what was there and attacked it. I doubt there are many wizards and witches out there who would recognise what they were looking at to even begin with."
"So, the vessel, the… cube was bait." Harry said with a raised eyebrow at her plan, "I presume it had shields and weapons?"
Hermione nodded and took a sip of her tea, "Not to the level of the show but enough to slow things down and to waste the strength of the attacker. Enough that when they saw the shields weakening, they would try harder to break through them. I expect that the pride of breaking such a defence would make an attacker overconfident and surge forward deeper without thinking, investing their focus in the cube and not looking around themselves."
Harry closed his eyes and nodded in agreement at that. "Appearing in space would cause panic and they would try and survive, not explore their surroundings. You've already attacked their ability and pride just at the point of entry. Many Legilimancers would take offense and seek to prove themselves stronger than you."
"It also weeds out the weakest attackers." Hermione said as she continues, "Can't adapt and you die from exposure to space. It's not hard to work around the problems as a witch or wizard, you just have to keep calm and think."
Harry leant back as he nodded in approval. "Not bad at all, invoke subtle panic in the attacker, makes it harder to break in as they need to divide their attention and focus."
"Or they have knowledge of technology to defend themselves from the environment." She said as she watched him for a moment before continuing, "The next defence is the Borg Drones. They adapt to each attacker as they fight, energy-based attacks are adapted to, so they have to either explore their full repertoire of spells to get through the drones or turn to physical attacks. Bullets and melee weapons are the most effect weapons against them."
Harry nodded at that, "I used a melee weapon, but it was tech based, an… energy sword. As it was an energy attack, they adapted to it."
Hermione grinned and pointed at him, "Exactly, it worked but they were adapting. The big advantage is that every spell cast, I get to witness through the ship's sensors and security feeds. While I may not have the capacity or ability to cast the spell, I can work at the theory of the spell, learn from someone who understands and has studied the magic wielded. You were casting silently and with few somatic actions, so I just had the effects to work with. But you are experienced with them, and I could learn or gain ideas from how you used them."
"So, following these… Borg drones. You had a… what did you call it? A Xenomorph Hive?" Harry asked as he took a sip of his tea, pondering how to adapt the insights he gained from Hermione's techniques into enhancing his own mindscape.
"By this time the attackers are drained and frustrated, possibly scared if they continue. That buys me time and wastes their energies. The lighting and environment of the cube are taken from the show in detail and are designed to make intruders uncomfortable, the sudden loss of some of those background aspects will agitate them further. The lack of light means that unless you can see in the dark or similar, you require a light source. The Xenomorphs can use that to detect intruders."
"The leathery sacks, sorry eggs?" Harry queried before taking a sip of his tea, "They didn't seem to react to me much at all."
"They detect carbon dioxide or close motion to trigger; you were invisible and had a bubblehead charm active. They could feel your vibrations, but it wasn't enough to trigger them." Hermione answered with an amused smile, "The Xeno's however could detect scents that shouldn't be there. Plus, your fireflies got them close. The noise you made when you saw the queen locked them on you. Had you used a broom to fly through, you could have likely gotten closer."
"What do the eggs do then?" Harry asked as he put his cup down, expecting her answer to horrify him.
Hermione's smile turned malicious for a moment, "Memetic Virus. The Facehugger jumps from an egg that's opened and latches to its victim. If the victim does not immediately defend and free themselves from the attack, then the Facehugger rams a tube down the victim's throat and implants the virus. IF they do defend themselves, then they have to deal with a fast and mobile small target filled with the same material as the Xenomorphs, so don't get hit by the splash. If they fail to defend themselves, then the victim is knocked unconscious, which either breaks the spell and intrusion or locks them into the mindscape."
She took a sip of her tea at Harrys grimace, "The Virus infects the invader and implants itself into a childhood memory. This memory gets used to fuel the birth of a Xenomorph in the intruder, which in my mindscape, is a terminal effect so will break the spell. Upon its 'birth' the memory is destroyed and the Xeno hides in the intruder's mind, slowly infecting other memories and building a hive until only a shell is left or the hive is destroyed."
"And…" Harry gulped at the nightmare such a defence could create, especially with those like Snape or Dumbledore around and their over-enthusiastic invasions of other minds, "Can it spread?"
"Beyond the invader?" Hermione shook her head at that, "No, the queen can only lay eggs that are keyed to the memories of the initial host and only while they are invading my mindscape. In a victim's mindscape, the Facehuggers can attack another invader to break the spell, but they can't infect them. If they are locked into the mindscape and are unconscious, a Xeno will kill the invader, thus breaking the spell."
Harry rubbed his face for a moment, "That's… that's terrifying Hermione."
He looked at her and realised something in that moment he had previously ignored in both lives so far. Hermione didn't understand people.
Oh, she could put a mask on and do her best to fit in, but her childhood and sheer intellect separated her from those around her. Her desire for knowledge, separated her further, which, along with her teeth as a child of dentists amongst young children would alienate her even further. So, she grew dependant on the opinions of adults, those with authority who were meant to guide her in life. But this made that divide between her and other children greater.
It explained her fixation on rules and proper behaviour, the drive to prove herself to those around her, her hunger for approval and praise. It also explained her issues in protecting those that are important to her in such extreme ways. She simply didn't understand proportion in relevance to her innate moral compass, which in itself wasn't the same as the general public.
Her first plan when trying to protect Harry in their first year was to set a teacher on fire!
Admittedly it was Snape and he had fantasised of doing the same, but the rule abiding, praise from teachers seeking first year decided to jump straight to arson and perhaps attempted murder.
Second year, she tore a page from something that was almost sacred to her, just to provide evidence to support her idea. The original third year she somehow learnt the bombarda spell which wasn't in the syllabus, why would she need to know a combat spell like that? Was she planning to murder Malfoy or perhaps Sirius Black if he tried to hurt him? Never mind that she broke the laws of time the moment she found out it would benefit him by saving Sirius Black from the Dementors.
Fourth year was pretty quiet other than her helping research spells he'd never heard of to help him. Fifth year, he didn't get to finish, but it resulted in her convincing him and organising an underground rebellion stroke fight club, binding her allies with a cursed contract that was likely the result of her research from the previous year and the attempted murder of a government official through using the centaurs and Grawp before breaking and entering the seat of the magical government just because it helped him again.
He wondered if Umbridge had survived all that in his original life or whether the centaurs had put her out of everyone's misery?
He looked at Hermione's slight smirk and realised, he had helped make her what she was today. And for a moment, he considered trying to guide her away from such extreme responses, but then threw such idiocy aside. She was glorious to him. A Queen of Retribution, divine justice on his enemies. She was Nemesis to his Zeus, well as long as you ignored a lot of the issues with that relationship… or Zeus in general.
Focusing his mind on the present and recent events, Harry took a deep breath before potentially destroying the world by not stopping her, "Please for all that is holy, never teach anyone how to replicate that. And for all that is holy and unholy, build in a way to stop it if something goes wrong."
Hermione shrugged, "Already have. If the victim performs 'I'm a little teapot' song and does the gestures that go with it properly, the virus self-destructs. It won't bring back any lost memories, but it will clean the subject of the Hive completely."
Her confidence faded and she fidgeted as she continued, "However, there's more."
At Harry's wince she shook her head, "If, and I mean if, you can get past everything and defeat the Queen, then you have what she was guarding. The plinth is a trap to waste time and effort. It's just a plinth with cool glowing symbols carved into it. They're just pretty patterns really. The worst trap of them all is the puzzle box."
Harry sighed as he rubbed his eyes, "I'm going to regret this, but what's the trap?"
Hermione's grin turned vicious, "That, is a Lament Configuration." At Harry's blank look she chuckled, "if you opened it, and that's not easy with the remains of the hive attacking and the Borg drones now hunting you through the hive, then you have to deal with the… contents. Let's just say that it won't be fun, well, unless you are into some rather heavy stuff. If you survive all that, the trap is over, there's nothing else there."
Harry sighed and picked up his cup of, thanks to Dobby, freshly refilled tea, "So where are your memories? If you have built such a physical and structured mindscape for your trap, then they can't be held metaphysically in things like the stars."
"Behind the cube from the entry point, I have a cloaked Vor'Cha Class starship with my memories stored in its computer core. The ship is basically one big holodeck and is crewed by my skills taking on the forms of the crew. Backups of my subconscious are stored in drones that are designed to maintain and repair the ship in case something major happens to me." She shrugged at that part, "No idea if it will work, but hopefully it will let me recover from attacks faster."
"By cloaked, do you mean visually or from sensors? Is it like a submarine going silent, like in Hunt for Red October?" Harry asked in interest.
"Visually and on sensors," Hermione answered, "But it can't fire its weapons while cloaked. It can even move while cloaked, so if someone goes looking for me, I can delay things for a little longer."
Harry nodded at that, "The mindscape isn't big enough to avoid them for too long, your mind can't keep the scene built to that scale without collapsing under its own 'weight'."
Hermione frowned at that, "Yeah, all entry points on the hull of the cube have to go to a small maze, but it's not that complex, the issue is the swarm attacking you. Manage to hold them back and you could get through it too quickly for my liking, the Hive isn't much better to be fair. I've managed to get the scale down to a balancing point, the issue is that if I'm hurt or confused, the area may need to be a lot smaller."
Harry nodded as he considered that, "If you're badly hurt, it might be reduced down to just the cube and its contents, what then?"
"If I was that bad, I'd probably drop the cube and fill the Vor'Cha with the Borg drones and the Xenomorphs instead of the crew. Keep those skills safe from attackers?" Hermione answered.
Harry sat back and thought the idea over. "That would likely work, hopefully it would buy you time to be rescued. If not, then that's the least of your worries."
Hermione shivered at that, "Let's just do our best so that doesn't happen, shall we?"
Harry chuckled, "A very good idea. Now, let's see about getting the enchantment in place and a few of the languages across. Now, open your mind."
Hermione chuckled at that, "I'm not going to Mars."
Harry ignored his confusion as he cast his spell, forming a mental bridge between them.
He found himself dressed in his favourite armour with his crown upon his brow, sitting upon a great throne shaped from the roots of an immense tree with leaves of multicoloured trees, the walls of Hogwarts great hall surrounded him, but no roof above them. In alcoves, great armoured figures stood at attention, swirls of colour painted across the metal. A few of them were covered in shrouds of black silk with emerald green designs as burial shrouds. To Harry's right, a lightly armoured older man stood of regal bearing with a sword of red fire in his hand. To his left stood a beautiful woman with green skin that shimmered in the light as if scaled. Amongst the roots, other figures moved, hidden by the shadows from her sight.
Hermione sat in a star ship captains chair, wearing a much more leather than usual costume than Harry had expected of her from their discussions of Star Trek, even though a gold emblem of Hogwarts rested on her chest where a communicator would be placed. Behind her, a screen displayed the black and silver cube, malevolent and waiting in the void. Large humanoids with a similar cranial ridge to the alien aboard the cube he had examined, stood at attention around her. To her right the Xenomorph Queen rested her claws on Hermione's shoulder and on the left, stood a regal figure dressed in black leather and pins stuck into the gridded flesh of his head. His flesh was flayed and pinned back to display muscle and bones beneath in gaps of the black robes that reminded Harry of a priest for some reason. His empty black eyes seemed to pierce deep into Harry's soul as his eyebrow raised in a manner that Snape would sell Malfoys soul to know how to carry such presence with.
Chuckling, Harry stepped forward to the edge of their mindscapes, offering her an ornate gold ring with strange runes carved over its surface on his armoured palm to her.
Raising an eyebrow at the ring being offered, she looked at him, "Normally its polite to ask a certain question before offering or accepting a ring like this."
Harry blinked in shock and confusion before he realised how the offer of the ring could be taken. "Later," he mumbled before speaking at his usual level, "It's a replica of the item that initially imbued me with the enchantment," He raised his hand and dismissed the gauntlet to show the same gold band resting on his own finger, "Wearing it should imbue the same enchantment on you."
Hermione frowned at it before cocking her head to one side in thought, "This place is my mind and how I can perceive reality, yes?" At Harrys slow nod, she smiled, taking the offered ring with a muttered, "Ash nazg durbatulûk" and pressed the ring against the gold badge on her chest and Harry blinked in surprise as the ring flowed into the badge. "The badges are a universal translator in the series, so I'm just reinforcing the concept in my mental structure, hopefully it will work, if not, then we can unravel the idea and try your way."
"Alright," Harry agreed with a chuckle, "So following that idea, let's go with you taking the language I offer to you. As you are following your concept for the enchantment, how do you think is the best way to do that?"
Hermione stepped up closer, "My mind, my rules?" At Harrys raised eyebrow and nod, she smiled gently at him, raising her hands to his face and placing her fingertips to specific points on his face, "I won't ever apologise for being the geek that I am." Closing her eyes, she let out a deep breath, "My Mind to your mind, my thoughts to your thoughts."
Her eyes opened to see the amused smile of an older looking Harry and her mind filled with a torrent of colours and images and sounds beyond her comprehension.
Harry opened his physical eyes to see Hermione unconscious in her chair, "Dobby." At the crack of displaced air, beside him, he continued, "Take Hermione back to her room and let her rest, get her a headache potion for when she wakes. Let her parents know she's sleeping off today's exercise." He rubbed his face at the emotional strain of the day so far, "Tell me when she wakes up. If she doesn't by dinner tonight, get me immediately."
Dobby nodded at his Glorious and Exalted Master, "Dobby will guard Master's Heart with his life."
Harry sat in the dark of his study, meditating on the Force as he waited for Greyshield to arrive. Reaching out, he allowed his senses to skim across the estate, a slight touch on all within its boundaries as he briefly checked who was present.
Jane was waiting by the nearby floo access for his guest, alert and ready for action, but there was a flicker of frustration around her. Ah, Sirius was bugging her as normal, near the window, so likely sitting and sunning himself again. A flicker of the usual frustration she had for the man child that was his godfather jumped between them but was softer than he had previously felt and... that was an unexpected spike of something. Too quick and fleeting before it was brought back under control, but, were they flirting? Well, they were adults and as long as it didn't interfere with his safety or plans, he wouldn't say anything. Both could do with a bit of happiness in their lives. And better Jane than Sirius gaining interest in Narcissa or Force forbid Petunia.
Dudley was actually doing his homework in the library by his presence and feel of frustration and confusion flowing from him. He'd have to point Lupin at him to see if he could help, no point wasting the opportunity when you have a teacher at hand. Speaking of Lupin, he was near the kitchens again, his self-loathing and hate soaking into the Force around him, flickers of interest burnt through the miasma around him as he appeared to be in a conversation that interested him.
Petunia was busy in there at the moment, but it felt like she was at peace in her actions. Huh, apparently, she was finally coming to terms with her situation by the feel of it. Similar flickers of interest spiked through her along with a growing frustration and annoyance at Lupin. Harry wondered if she would finally snap at him or hold her tongue? Harry mentally shrugged, it wasn't of too much interest to him really, but he was curious how the Runt would take Petunia's venomous tongue.
Further out, Dobby was with the few House Elves that remained to the Lestranges before his acquisition of the estate, they were over by the orchard at the moment. The Force hummed around them as if singing to them as they worked, peace and pleasure flowing from them as they cared for the trees and their fruit.
Wretch, the eldest of those who had served the Lestranges, was slow but careful as he tended to each apple in turn, the Force shining at how content he was, even with the black rents in his aura that would never heal from the damage inflicted upon him over the decades of his service. Harry allowed himself to drift in the aura of peace and contentment that flowed from him into his children around him as they worked.
For a moment, he was envious of the purity of their focus, the simple pleasure of no needs, no wants, just their duty. This was how they were meant to be, not the fearful and curse scarred wrecks that they had been when he acquired them.
He would need to see if he could compare it to the House Elves of Hogwarts to make sure they were the same, if not, then he would have to fix things for them.
Wretch's presence flickered for a moment with a stab of pain, but then he regained his focus and the peace returned. Harry pulled back at that to give the Elf his privacy. Wretch was old, aged further by the horrors inflicted upon him to protect his children, it would not be long before he joined his ancestors. The other elves knew and could feel it, but they said nothing, content to spend their time with their elder, helping him and caring for the one that had shielded them from the Lestrange's excesses.
Content and more at peace for his meditations, Harry stopped as he felt the floo flicker in the Force before two goblins wreathed in potential violence entered the room, their focus as sharp as the blades they carried before moving to a side and their magic flickered as they did something. A moment later, Greyshield entered the room and was carrying an absence in the Force.
Harry frowned at the cube of nothing that was being carried towards him, that was something new and unexpected. Apparently, the Goblins had a method of blocking the Force and most likely magic from interacting with whatever was contained in the cube.
Opening his eyes, he blinked in the dark and flicked a finger at the lights, raising them to a level comfortable for a Goblin, but not too dark for Harry to not see everything.
Jane entered the room and motioned the Goblins to follow, one in armour entered, its sharp gaze swept the room before nodding and stepping back out, Greyshield entered the room once his guard had confirmed his safety. Jane smiled at him without teeth and left the room, leaving the two alone as she closed the door behind her.
Greyshield nodded, "Adas." He said as he placed the box on the desk.
Harry nodded in response, "Greyshield, what do you have for me?"
Greyshield grinned at that, "It took a bit, but we found one of your items." He gestured towards the box, "It was in the Lestrange Vault as you expected. Heavily cursed and protected in manners that have been investigated and provided to our Cursebreakers and Vault Keepers. We are going to offer similar protections to other families for a suitable fee. I couldn't deny the deadliness of such enchantments."
"Anyone else know you have this?" Harry asked as he ran a finger over the box, still unable to sense it or it's contents in the Force.
"Only my Clan was involved in the audit and this is a Clan relic, I had no need to go to others for aid." Greyshield answered with a tone Harry had learnt meant smugness in Goblins. "The one who was injured in its acquisition will be given a portion of the rights of the new enchantments we will be offering to the other Clans. That alone would be enough wealth for him to found a new Clan if he desired, but he is loyal, so will be offered good matches by my siblings."
Harry nodded at that, "What is it?"
"An enchanted cup that contains a bountiful power as well as some form of parasite that feeds upon and twists the items' purpose." Greyshield raised a hand to almost touch a subtle marking on the box, "Be alert, it has a bewitching nature and will try to draw you to drink from it."
Harry nodded and watched as the box folded back on itself at Greyshield's touch, leaving a golden chalice with badgers decorating it. The gems set for eyes were varied in colour, but all held a malignant shine that even had Harry not been so gifted by the Force, he would have known to keep clear of this.
Standing, Harry moved to a section of wall in the study and grasped the air, pulling a sword from a hidden scabbard. In a swift surge of motion, he turned and simply thrust the sword at the cup, the gold parting under the blade of the sword like paper. Greyshield backed away suddenly as the gold spit and hissed as if alive and heavily wounded as the gold turned black and molten around the swords green tinted blade.
With a whimper more than a scream, a stream of black ichor poured from the ruined chalice and a pale face tried to form from it before burning away into the air like smoke and burning paper.
Harry twisted the blade which deformed the chalice further, but no more reaction occurred to the Sword of Gryffindor. Pulling it clear of the ruined metal, he wiped the blade clean of any stain with a cloth he immediately threw it in the fireplace before burning it with a flick of his finger. Carefully, he sheathed the sword and looked at his desk.
"Fuck. I'm going to need a new one. Damn it, I liked that desk." Harry muttered before focusing on Greyshield, "I presume you now understand some of the danger of these items?"
Greyshield rolled the ball of wood that was previously the box holding such a corrupt item and was glad he had never touched it. "Indeed, it is unfortunate that the one who found it will succumb to a malignant curse we were unaware of to save him in time. His kin will be provided the reward he earned with his sacrifice."
Harry looked at the goblin for a moment before nodding, "A tragedy to lose someone in such a manner." He moved his chair back from the desk and frowned at the black stain on it, pushing it back into its place under the desk. "One moment please. Dobby."
With no sound or disturbance, Dobby was suddenly next to Harry, before bowing to his master, "Magnanimous and Virile Master calls." the unhinged elf said.
Harry let out a deep sigh before nodding, "Remove all the contents of this room other than the desk and chair to a safe location, then once I am done, repair and redecorate the study. I'll be needing a new desk and chair at that time. See if you can get something similar."
Dobby nodded and bowed again, "As you command, master." He said before popping away to begin preparations.
Greyshield chuckled slightly, "Excitable fellow, isn't he?"
Harry chuckled before removing the sword and scabbard from its place on the wall and belting it in place. "You have no idea." He nodded to the goblin respectfully, "Do the initials RAB mean anything to you?"
Greyshield frowned, "Not quickly to memory, I can look into it for you?"
Harry nodded, "Please, they're likely to have been a Death eater and probably dead in the last war. I doubt they would have survived, but I've been surprised before."
Greyshield shrugged, "Magic helps in faking a death. But I shall see who or what those initials could mean, I'll keep as quiet as I can about it, but the very act of searching may alert someone."
"It's worth the risk," Harry said as he looked around the room as sections of books and papers were suddenly disappearing from their places. "best head back, I'll deal with the clean-up."
Greyshield gave a respectful nod and left, signalling his guards to follow immediately. If there was one thing you could say about Adas, he didn't do things by half. Pausing by the fire as it turned green, he turned to one of his guards, "Stonepick died of a hidden curse from the item, make it quick and clean." He turned to the other, "Check who he has had contact with and quarantine them, it would be a pity of the curse was contagious."
The guards nodded and one stepped into the Floo, speaking the destination in their native tongue, Greyshield repeated the destination as he took his own step into the human's madness of quick transport before his second guard followed him.
They had work to do.
Harry meanwhile opened the windows of the study to let out any smoke and drew his wand. He raised it ready to cast before pausing and drew the sword of Gryffindor, looking along its green hued steel. Looking up to the roof, he sighed and began to speak, "If this doesn't work, to all my ancestors, I'm really sorry." He pointed the blade towards the desk and chair, untouched by Dobby's quick work, the tip of his wand rested at the point the blade was contained by the guard and hilt of the sword.
Concentrating, Harry cloaked himself with the comforting weight of the Force to focus his mind and poured it around the blade in an attempt to fuel and enhance its enchantments before he incanted the spell, "Famelicus Diabolica."
With a whoomph and roar of hungry rage, the fire rushed along the length of the blade, heating it in its wake as it poured from the blade onto the wood of the ancient desk and chair, rapidly reducing them to ash and that ash was then consumed down to barely a wisp of smoke. The stone floor of the study warped and melted under the heat of the magic.
Harry hammered down on the spell before it could try and leap from his control and smothered its hungry rage. As the air cleared, he looked down and released his breath as he saw the Sword of Gryffindor was still there. There was a faint shimmer in the air around the blade and it glowed slightly, little flickers of flames ran over the blade at points. Putting his hand near the blade he felt a pleasant warmth emitted from the metal.
While the stone cracked and clicked as it cooled, Harry conjured a metal bar as thick as his arm and as tall as he was. A few quick charms stuck it in place and secured it.
Readying himself, he took a strong swing at the metal, expecting the enchanted blade to cut it, but to not get too deep. Perhaps the venom would eat into the metal a bit to cut deeper?
To his surprise, the blade cut smoothly almost halfway through the bar before coming to a stop, even then, he felt the metal holding the blade give and soften around it as he held it in place. If he had enhanced his muscles with the Force as he struck, he may have even cut through the bar completely. Pulling the sword free, he saw the bar was rapidly cooling from where the blade had cut, the metal discoloured, not only by the venoms touch, but by the heat of the blade.
Placing the tip of the blade against another section of the bar, he slowly pushed it forward, using his weight more than his strength, and felt the metal give way under the blades point. Slowly, the blade sank deeper and deeper until he lurched forward as the blade had pierced the other side of the bar and there was no more resistance. Pulling it back, he saw the metal around the cut still glowing with the heat, which was much harsher than the swords heat when his hand neared the cut.
Laughter echoed from the open windows of the study as Harry realised that, without planning on it, he had made something as close to a magical lightsaber as he could by accident.
Shaking his head, his amusement turned to frustration when he realised that he would have to figure out how to make a scabbard that could contain the sword itself if he wanted to carry it around.
This was going to be annoying.
From the balcony of the guest room Augusta had provided him, Albus Dumbledore watched as his Apprentice went through the combat forms as instructed in the courtyard below, the boy reaching the end of the sequence, hitting the majority of his targets before restarting them.
Albus sighed as his mind returned once more to the events of the Quidditch World Cup still heavy on his mind.
The choice between using a good portion of his political capital to keep his allies free or for those allies of his faction in the Wizengamot being heavily fined or in Azkaban was a simple one. Without his allies, he would have no-one to call upon for favours or to use the majority of the favours owed to him. And favours could be regathered given time and opportunity, those he supported know they owed him for their freedom and that was a power of its own.
His contemplation was disturbed by the calm words that intruded from the room behind him. "The boy has potential," the Sword of Rome said, "but he lacks… drive." He remained silent as he stepped up to lean against the balcony to watch, "I must admit my surprise, I thought you had chosen another."
"And a good morning to you as well." Dumbledore sighed without turning his gaze from his Apprentice, "My first choice is… no longer an option. Mr Longbottom will do well enough, while he may lack drive, he does not lack focus. One he can gain, the other… well, better that he does not survive if that's the case."
The Sword nodded at that, "Indeed. Longbottom you say, interesting. We had our eyes on his father before his… incident." He glanced at the older wizard beside him before watching the boy again with more focus this time. "Seems fit enough, agile as well. Not a bad form, but not yours. He's trying to follow your lesson, but his muscles are trying to do another. He has another teacher?"
Dumbledore frowned, "He's studied under another, and I am building upon it. It will take some time to remove such issues."
"Really?" The Sword smirked at his friend, "That must annoy you." He looked over the boy below again, opening his eyes to the flow of Magic around them, his hand coming to rest on the plain hilt of the sword at his waist. "Potent. No Taint or Corruption that I can sense." He glanced to his friend and hid his wince at the frayed and scarred soul beside him, "Good stock? Any impurities to be worried about?"
Dumbledore snorted in amusement, "I have barely begun to teach him my friend, I would be worried if there was any taint on his soul as yet." He glanced at the warrior beside him and sighed, "Yes, he's of good stock, nothing that I am aware of in his lineage. The Longbottom's are an old and proud family, I doubt they would allow their children to have relations with other breeds."
He chuckled slightly, "Not that you would have much luck in adding him to your lines without his grandmothers' blessings. You would have to wait for her to pass or him to reach adulthood before trying anything along those lines. Never mind that he's mine, so don't try to poach him."
The Sword chuckled and raised a hand to ward off Dumbledores amused anger, "Fear not, I will not try to steal him from you. Not that I wouldn't be averse to a match between him and a daughter or niece of mine."
Dumbledore shook his head, "For that you would once again need to speak to his Grandmother, or to the boy directly on his majority." He glanced with a frown at the Sword, "I thought all your daughters were married already?"
The Sword smirked at that, "I have two, no three nieces of suitable age and my youngest may be a woman grown in comparison to him but is still unmarried and more than young enough. I could hold off for a few more years if she was agreeable."
Dumbledore raised an eyebrow at him, "I thought she was meant to be marrying that Hunter in New York?"
The Sword sighed, "Vampires got him and his unit this March. The Vatican sent me to sort matters out. The Elders gave us his killer and his coterie, pressing for peace. I commandeered a few units and hunted them all. I think we got most of them in the city, heard a few of the smarter ones managed to escape the hunt, I know one made it to Washington and another Los Angeles. Found some nasty things in the clean-up, they'll be back but they will have to work to recover ground."
Dumbledore sighed, "That would explain the missives I've been getting from London then."
The Sword raised an eyebrow and motioned the old wizard to continue.
"Queen Anne was very emphatic that no troublemakers from the Colonies would be accepted into the Courts of Avalon and that she would deliver any such to the Ministry of Magic to do as we desire."
The Sword laughed at that, "Did she deliver any?"
Dumbledore nodded, "Two of them, staked and bound, a scroll declaring that they were a gift to the Ministry and hoping that the Treaties between us were still holding strong with no issues."
"Subtle, she is not." The Sword commented.
Dumbledore shrugged, "It helps when I've made my views on her and her kind very plain in the few times we have met." He motioned to the Sword, "Nor has she forgotten what we did in Germany together, I'm very sure that was an incident burned into the collective memory of the Leeches."
The Sword laughed at that, "No. I don't imagine they would forget that, but we grow old and slower my friend, I doubt we could replicate that these days."
Dumbledore grunted at that, "Speak for yourself, 'old' friend."
"I do at that," The Sword nodded, "but we will need to prepare our successors positions for when we pass. While I can do little before the Lance choses my successor on my passing, what of you?"
Dumbledore gestured to Neville below them as he continued his exercises, "I will take him to a few events and let others see him serving as my assistant, I'm sure they will get the point. As for proving his power, I have a few matters in mind that can be used to display his ability and skills. One in particular will definitely get the point across I believe."
The Sword frowned at that, "I can think of only one such issue in the region and that is no small matter. I presume you mean for the boy to defeat a Dark Lord as you did?"
Dumbledore nodded at that but said nothing more.
"Then you had best prepare a few Apprentices if that will be the mark of your successor. To throw a new Apprentice against your former one, to clean up the mistakes you made?" The Sword sighed, "That is not a small matter and… forgive me, but are you trying to kill the boy?"
"No, I wish him to live a long and happy life. And it will not be Voldemort that Neville will face, but his successor." Albus said with a sigh.
"Then you will deal with Voldemort?" The Sword asked as he turned his full attention on the old wizard.
"No." Dumbledore sighed, "He is bound by Prophesy to face another. Should Voldemort be the victor, then I will assist Neville with finishing him in his weakened state. Should Voldemort fall, then Neville will prove to be my successor in his conflict."
The Sword blinked in shock, "Voldemort is Prophesied to fall to his own Apprentice? Was this confirmed by Delphi? The Celestial Tower? The Guardians of Hombori? The Dreamers of Uluru?"
Dumbledore sighed, "The prophesy was local, I have not queried the others. I have no desire to draw attention to the matter. One will kill the other, and by my understanding, it can only be the other of the pair that would be able to do so."
"And if you are wrong, and the opponent is someone else?" The Sword queried.
"Then I am lucky that my Apprentice could also be taken as the one to face Voldemort." Dumbledore said as he moved back into the shade of the room.
"You play a dangerous game." The Sword glanced down at the boy below for a moment before following him, "What if you are wrong?"
Dumbledore sat in his comfortable chair and poured himself a cup of tea, "I'm not…"
The Sword raised a hand to stop him as he hissed, "What. If. You. Are. Wrong?"
Dumbledore sighed in annoyance before nodding to the man, "I'm not. But in the worst-case scenario and I am mistaken, then it is good that I will have told another of the Prophesy, and that they have the resources and will to act in a suitable manner to bring the matter to a close." He gestured to the chair opposite as he leant back in his own, savouring the aroma of the tea.
The Sword sighed as he took the offered seat, "That explains the invitation. I presume you realise that I will have to report all this to my superiors?"
Dumbledore smiled, "I'm sure the Pope and the Cardinals will agree with my translation of the Prophesy and will acknowledge the danger of the wrong results occurring."
A pile of paperwork dropped onto Celeste Grave's desk with a bang as she looked up to see her latest greenhorn partner glaring at her, "Why the hell didn't you get this yourself?"
Celeste smirked, "The advantage of rank and the fact you were assigned to me greenhorn." She gestured at the pile of records, "Is that everything?"
Her partner grunted and nodded, "Portkey requests for repeating portkey travel at regular periods between London and New York. Permits for wand use outside magical areas. Nothing for outside New York yet. Visa applications and approvals. Werewolf declaration in reference to Potters bodyguard. Copies of receipts that have been confirmed by the Goblins."
He gestured towards the upper section, "Interviews with the Portkey Arrival and Departure teams. Observation reports from the surveillance team." He gestured over the whole thing, "Both Potter and the Blacks have everything covered and nothing missing in the paperwork. Their party arrives, Sirius Black visits his mind healer, Potter goes shopping with Narcissa Black and his bodyguard. Potter swaps with Sirius Black in the office, Narcissa Black returns with Sirius Black to London. Potters Bodyguard waits and returns with her charge. Nothing weird except they go to New York rather than a healer in their own country."
Celeste frowned, "So it looks greenhorn, but you can never trust a Potter. Or a Black. You especially can't trust them together. They're up to something, we need to know what."
The greenhorn frowned, "Is this something to do with that Dooku case you were working on?"
Celeste glared at him, "Am working on greenhorn, that's still ongoing. Unknown Englishman arrives and takes over a drug lords' business and no-one cares. Then suddenly, an unknown Lord Black just pops up from no-where and Sirius Black is released from prison? Trust me greenhorn, something is wrong in all that and its connected. I'd bet my pension on it."
The greenhorn sighed, "Are you ever going to stop calling me greenhorn?"
Celeste stared at the young man, barely more than a boy before her, "You're a greenhorn until I call you otherwise, get used to it. Just remember that when I actually use your name, you've earned it and I'm the biggest nastiest bitch in this department. You survive me, you'll get your pick of posting."
The greenhorn snorted in amusement, "It's not you I need to survive, its who you're chasing or pissing off next."
Celeste smiled at him, "If you just wanted me to ramp up the training, that's all you needed to ask." Her smile turned into a wide grin of malice, "We'll use my grandpa's routine starting Monday, get some rest greenhorn, you're going to need it."
Harry smiled as he entered the Ministers much more subtly decorated Office, "Hello Cornelius."
Cornelius looked up from his paperwork, "A good afternoon to yourself Harry." He gestured to the waiting seats by the heatless fire where a tea set waited. "Please take a seat, Ill be with you in a moment." He gestured to the parchment he was reading, "Unfortunately I've fallen behind a touch this morning, I'll just be a moment and then we can have our chat."
Harry poured himself a cup of tea, subtly checking for unexpected additions with a whispered spell and finding none, he took a sip, "No worries, Cornelius, take your time, I can wait."
Jane's sharp gaze swept over the office before she nodded to the Ministers guard the outside of the office entrance before she closed the door and moved to her own post, giving the Minister a polite nod as he smiled at her before returning to his parchment.
A minute later Cornelius signed his name with a pleased "Done." He secured the document and sat in his usual spot and took the tea Harry had prepared, "Thank you Harry." Taking a sip, he sighed in pleasure as he stretched out his feet towards the fire, "Apologies, as I said, it's been a long day and it doesn't look to be ending any sooner."
Harry chuckled, "I imagine the cleaning up of your staff is to blame?"
"Oh yes," Cornelius answered with a smirk, "A boon and bane to my day so far. Over a dozen were quietly fired for their corruption, but that means that until I can get new staff in who pass all the checks, I have a ton of parchment work that I have to deal with directly. I'm looking forward to delegating all that again."
"The price of running a government," Harry said with a knowing chuckle, "paperwork."
Cornelius laughed at that, "Indeed, my sworn nemesis!" He put the cup down and opened a waiting file to the side, "So, back to work I'm afraid." He motioned to the file in hand, "You've read all this?"
Harry gave a nod and carried on drinking his tea, "I have. Rather than have a Ministry representative, perhaps you should attend the Choosing of the Champions and perhaps attending the Ball with your wife as well. Its good publicity and would tie you to the events, letting the public know that you feel it's important and not some gimmick to distract people."
Harry opened the file and tapped his finger on the parchment at the corrections made to the original plans, "The restructure of the second and third challenges are much better. It should be much more entertaining for the audience now. Its such a pity we can't do anything about the dangers of the first challenge."
Cornelius shrugged at that, "We've unfortunately invested too much money and favours into it already to write it off." He checked a few sections himself before nodding, "Crouch had already negotiated nearly everything before his accident, I don't have anyone on my staff who could rival him for his skills and connections to alter those deals in our favour."
Harry nodded as he considered that, he would need to acquire skilled negotiators for diplomats for dealing with Europe in the future, the little glimpses he gained from Cornelius were useful but frustrating at the same time. He had hoped that the politics would match that of modern Europe, unfortunately, Magicals were a century or two behind the rest of the world. He had never expected to have to deal with the Ottoman Empire in the middle east, and they weren't the most confusing part of the world.
With a glance at the notes he had brought, if only to portray the image of requiring them for his memory, Harry tapped a highlighted section and turned his focus on Cornelius, "The only issue I've spotted so far is the Yule Ball. You currently have it set for Christmas Day. That will upset a lot of people."
He pointed to the highlighted calendar in his notes, "Why not have it on the 23rd instead? Perhaps have a special run of the Express the next day or perhaps organise a secure link between Hogwarts and the Ministry. A small Auror force at each end would allow the families to feel secure and then the children could Floo home or move into London itself to continue their journey."
Cornelius looked at the relevant notes and nodded at that, "Not a bad idea. Talk me through your reasoning."
Harry gave a smile at Cornelius trying to make this a lesson for the young teen. One that Harry had long learnt at the guidance Count Dooku. But he had to keep the act going, otherwise people would start asking questions, and he needed to avoid too much attention until it was too late.
Mundungus stood in the room waiting for 'Moriarty' to collect him for their meeting. He'd gone over the room as he had before and found nothing, he'd even checked if the chair was a portkey, but his checks showed nothing, so it was likely a House Elf who had taken him.
Again, a small hand grabbed hold of him, and he was pulled to a dark room, again lit by only a single light near the roof, its bright light preventing him from seeing his patron.
"Mr Fletcher," the voice echoed in the room, but without the headache inducing sensation as it had previously, "I believe you have something to report to me."
Mundungus nodded and carefully opened his satchel pulling out a few bundles. "Not everything, but I got the majority sir." He paused a second before continuing, "If your elf could provide a table?"
The voice chuckled at that, and a table appeared before him. Gently, Mundungus began to place and unravel the packages. "Three-hour doses of Polyjuice. Twenty of them." He raised a sheet of parchment and placed it beside the vials, "Contact details for the potioneer and the records of costs. They're good, but too much heat from aurors could break them. I believe they could do a better version of the potion, but I got you what you asked for."
He unwrapped the remaining bundles, revealing two very old books next, "De Vermis Mysteriis, receipt of sale from a contact in MACUSA. On the Matter and the Deeds of Serpents, the record here is the cost for hiring the team to acquire this copy for you clean and quietly. They left a blank book transfigured to look like the outside to cover the theft. No idea how long that will last and if it will even be noticed for a time. But it should cover when exactly the item was stolen."
"I was unable to acquire Biedde's Blade." He paused as he took a deep breath before continuing, "I confirmed it actually exists, but it was last seen at the turn of the century in a private collection of a noble in Tsaritsyn." He placed a pile of parchment on the table, "These are my records and notes so far. Do you wish me to continue or to leave it alone?"
The light went off for a moment, leaving him standing in an abyssal darkness, before the light returned in full force, driving tears from his eyes as they tried to rapidly adjust. Blinking away the spots in his vision, he squinted to see the table was empty of his results, leaving only the cloth he had used to bundle and protect the items.
"You have done well. Keep what remains of the purse as a bonus. Biedde's Blade would be nice to acquire, but do not trouble yourself to hunt it down." The voice paused as if in thought. When you return to the meeting room, you will find another purse of coins and a set of parchment with instructions. Follow them as well as you have with the test, and I will protect you."
"Thank you, sir," Mundungus said with a relieved sigh, "How will I contact you, or you to contact me?"
The voice echoed again, "There will be a bell in the package, ring it if you are in need of instruction or assistance. You will be notified by letter if I have any instructions. If we are to meet, we shall continue using the meeting room and you will receive a letter noting when I wish you to attend. It will only have a time on it unless something forces us to change matters. Understood?"
Mundungus nodded his head at that, "Understood sir."
With another small hand grabbing him and tugging him back to the room, Mundungus found a briefcase waiting for him on the table with a small wooden box. Carefully, he opened the box to find a little silver bell, waiting to be rung. In the briefcase, he found a collection of parchment with detailed instructions and several columns of galleons resting in a velvet lined tray.
"Merlin," Mundungus gasped at the sight of so much wealth, quickly, he shook his head and closed everything up. He needed to be gone so he could read his orders quietly and securely, who knows who could be listening at the door.
Jane Doe sat in the Lord Black's study with Harry as they went through the paperwork for the applicants. "I've got it down to these three."
Harry nodded and looked at the names on the files, "Nymphadora Tonks I already knew about, but I thought she was joining the Auror's?"
"She was," Jane nodded, "but your Herald apparently opened her daughters' eyes to some issues in the Auror's department and it's become a problem. I interviewed her and she seems honest about wanting to do some actual good without selling her soul to do it."
"Dumbledore." Harry chuckled, "Guessing he wrangled something for her and she's too honest for it."
Jane shrugged, "I'm pretty sure that's the case. Unless it's a deep cover mission to watch you. I think she's honest and is talented, Savage gave her a good review on her training sessions. Plus, her ability makes her a very valuable asset, especially as a body double to draw off threats in an emergency."
"I don't want a sacrificial lamb Jane," Harry said as he looked through the file, "I want a bodyguard who will do their job."
Jane pointed at the file, "DMLE's going to have a fit when they realise what they've lost to us. Might have to grease a few wheels to keep them off her back about it."
Harry looked at his bodyguard, "Do you think she's worth it?"
Jane nodded and he put the file aside, reaching for the next one.
Jane smirked at that one, "Marion Smith, squib in her majesty's armed forces. Left after his second tour, did well, a few commendations, good references. Fit and Healthy. Sister is a werewolf, so he's in the loop. Got contacts with some of his old squaddies if we need to expand. If we want to branch into Merc work, he's a good pick to acquire. They're likely all non-magical though, so we'll need to be careful around them."
Harry read the thin file with a frown, "Your gut instinct on him? And can we get the rest of the files? There's too much black ink on this to be much use."
Jane smirked at him, "There's a reason I gave you these three files. As for the full files, no idea if we can get them, but I might be able to wrangle a few bits through his contacts or he might expand on the intel for us."
Harry pointed at the third file, "Since you've cherry picked them, what's special about that one?"
Jane grinned at that, "Titus Selwyn, squib again, but this one's a werewolf pack leader. Get him, we get the pack which just happens to include Smiths sister."
"And with the shifts in the laws and public sight, a good portion of my bodyguards being werewolves will draw more to us." Harry said as he opened the file and looked at its contents, after a minute he looked up at her, "I'll hire all three, Tonks as a bodyguard, Selwyn will swear an oath of fealty to you as my representative, that should get around the laws for the moment. Same rules as with you, you sort out the salaries on that front. Smith gets to head my muggle security teams, get him to reach out to his buddies to see what they can gather."
Harry nodded to himself and sat back in the chair, "Tonks will be my bodyguard as will you and Selwyn and three more of his pack. We'll rota Tonks into the periods where it's a full moon to make sure I'm covered for the moment." He sighed and looked at Jane, "I'm going to need someone who will handle 'odd' meetings on full moons and the like. If Tonks is that honest, then I'm going to have to be careful about things."
Jane raised an eyebrow at him, "You mean the dodgy meetings you have when I'm not available and everyone thinks you're sleeping in your rooms?"
Harry chuckled, "Yes, those. What gave it away?"
Jane leant forward, "Harry, you walked into a shithole in Knockturn to get a bodyguard and you picked a werewolf on purpose. You bluffed a Vampire to her face, and it turns out you weren't bluffing, plus you pick up my tricks too fast to not be already aware of things. If you weren't up to some dodgy shit, I'd be very surprised and rather disappointed."
Harry laughed at that, "Keep it as quiet as you can, and I'll let you know what I'm up to for the most part."
"That's all I ask." Jane said as she sat back in her chair, "Can't keep you alive if I don't know what's coming for you."
Harry nodded at that, "Dumbledore and Voldemort are my biggest threats right now."
"Oh, is that all?" Jane snorted, "But seriously, who did you piss off amongst the goblins? I've had three assassination attempts on you so far paid in goblin gold. Greyshield was giggling like a little girl when I delivered the bodies to him." She shuddered at the memory, "Goblins should not giggle, it's just not right."
Harry sat in the Ministry box of the stadium, waiting for the final of the Quidditch Cup to begin. Hermione, as his guest, was sat beside him, politely talking to Mrs Fudge about her coursework and some practical applications of the magic she was learning with an adult. While she was distracted by that, Harry kept an eye on the officials around him, noting who looked like they wanted to talk to him.
Cornelius was jumping between groups of guests, gladhanding them all quite well. Harry's suggestion of trying to learn a polite greeting in his peers' native languages having smoothed over a number of ruffled feathers already, Magicals were a prideful lot at the best of times, so a small act like this certainly raised his worth in their eyes. He may have butchered some of the words, by some of the winces he was getting, but at least he was trying.
Currently, Cornelius was discussing things with the Bulgarian Minister who, from what Harry could hear, his translator was being honest and clear with his words and Cornelius wasn't embarrassing himself by following the age-old tradition of 'talking slowly and loudly and they will understand' which likely did not help Britain's reputation in the world.
The lack of Dumbledore in the box had been a topic of interest to many of the foreign guests, all asking about the Chief Mugwump. Cornelius, merely gave a sorrowful smile and mentioned that he had declined the invitation to attend, although he personally felt that it might be something to do with his age or health.
Harry hadn't considered using that sort of comment himself, but if the Minister said it and he just mentioned that he had heard about it from the Minister, then that would add his political weight behind the Ministers and not the other way around if it backlashed on them.
Hightower sat in the far corner, watching everyone just as Harry was doing, giving him a polite nod, which Harry returned as they noticed each other. Diggory just glared from his seat with his son Cedric looking rather embarrassed at his father's behaviour and comments. Although, with Jane standing as Harry's guard, she probably wasn't helping with that.
Then Harry twitched as he felt a very familiar presence enter the Box, Cornelius hurried over and greeting the couple warmly and guided them across to Harry. Hermione frowned in confusion at the resemblance to the actor, but Harry did his best not to glare at the man standing before him.
As Cornelius opened his mouth to introduce them, the man raised a hand to pause the Minister for a moment, "Please, allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth and taste." He gave a polite nod to Harry and Hermione as he hid a smirk at Hermione's blink at the introduction, "Count Ademar Dooku at your service." He gestured to the Hispanic woman beside him, "This is my new wife, Countess Sofia Dooku."
Abaddon turned to the Minister, "I must apologise for cutting into your introduction, but I couldn't help myself. But I must also thank you, I've been trying to find Mr Potter for a while now."
"Oh?" Harry asked, "Why is that?"
Abaddon smiled at the teenaged Sith Lord before him, "I've long searched for others of my family, and I recently discovered that we are third cousins through your mother. I am so pleased to finally find another living member of my family."
Cornelius cut into the conversation at that, "Really? How marvellous, would you mind providing a copy of your research and the records for my staff to investigate." He raised a palm to stop any response, "I'm not accusing you of lying but I have to wonder where you've been all these years with Mr Potter being raised by muggle family when he could have had a… more appropriate upbringing."
Abaddon smiled sadly at that, "No offense taken, but I was in Colombia, where my parents hid from the purges of my kin by Grindelwald. We refused to kneel to him, so he tried to kill us. The survivors ran and hid, here I am." He waved a hand to Harry, "Obviously others of my family managed to hide elsewhere and here we are."
"As wonderful as this is," Harry interjected as he nodded to Abaddon, "if you are correct, then we have a lot to talk about. But first, we can't hold up this event any further."
Abaddon and Sofia chuckled at that, Sofia finally speaking, "You are certainly correct Senor Potter. Let us exchange contact information, provide the good Minister our evidence and perhaps meet up at…" She turned to look at her husband, "what was it called dear?"
Abaddon smiled at Sofia, "Hogsmeade, my dear."
Sofia smiled and nodded, "Hogsmeade, yes. I have been told that there are many fine places to eat and drink there. Perhaps we can attend on one of the weekends you are available?"
Harry smiled at her and nodded, "I'm sure we can work something out, no matter the good Ministers findings. But before we do, please allow me to introduce Hermione Granger, the finest witch of her generation."
Abaddon smiled and nodded respectfully to Hermione, "Miss Granger, an honour to meet you."
Hermione smiled at the man, still confused about him and the way he felt so familiar to her, "And you, Count Dooku. Countess Dooku."
"I look forward to discussing matters further with you both, but if you will excuse us." Abaddon gestured towards their seats while the Minister waved away Ludo Bagman once again.
Harry and Hermione sat back down as the Count and Countess moved to their own. Cornelius hurried across to let Bagman begin and Harry looked around at the other guests of interest to him.
To the left of the Ministers Box, the Box purchased by the Houses of Black and Potter held Sirius, to his right sat Andromeda and to his left sat Narcissa. Ted was attending in that box beside his wife, leaning across the gap to talk to Arthur who was in the Ministry box beside them.
On the further side of the Black/Potter Box, was the Malfoys Box, Harry saw Lucius Malfoy enter with an unknown woman on his arm, Draco followed them, only to freeze at the sight of his mother sitting in the next Box. It was interesting to watch the storm of emotions and thoughts pour across the poor boy's face. At a touch of the strange woman's hand on his arm, Draco's focus returned in a sudden shift, suggesting that the boy was studying occlumency to control his thoughts.
Narcissa in turn, mournfully watched her son follow his father, before she returned her focus to the conversation she was holding with her sister across Sirius, who just looked confused about what was being discussed.
Now, that was interesting. What secrets was Draco learning and needing to hide from others. In the last life, Draco was a spoiled and brash bully who kept biting off more than he could chew and never learning from his mistakes. This time, he was actually developing and could possibly become of interest. He would never be dismissed as a threat as desperation could make the boy dangerous, but Harry had never had anything to really worry about when it came to the boy before.
Taking a risk with the sheer number of Magical's present and the roaring emotions of the coming game between Ireland and Bulgaria, Harry opened himself up to the Force to give the Malfoys a scan. Draco was much the same as before, but this time, there was more order and solidity to his presence. The woman was nothing special, porcelain and paint over twisted flesh, but for a flicker of a moment, Harry was sure he had seen a mask that was a combination of the Comedy and Tragedy masques.
Shaking the confusion from the momentary image clear, he looked upon Lucius and was surprised. He had expected elements of water and shadow to represent his cunning and changing nature. Perhaps a mask or similar to hide the truth behind the image he portrays to others. But instead, Harry looked upon a figure composed of white fire that moved like it was a mass of snakes, for a face, there was a silver mask that displayed the dark mark on its forehead.
The sheer faith of the man was disturbing to see. Harry was unsure what it was focused on but feared that it rested upon his master with the dark mark being an icon of importance to him. Not hidden like Snape or Pettigrew's, but an honest and open belief.
Harry shuddered as he blocked himself off before he drowned in the chaos and sensations of the crowd.
Hermione patted him on the arm and gave him a worried smile to which Harry just pointed to his ear and then out to the crowd with a slightly pained smile. Hermione just nodded and returned to her conversation while continuing to rub Harry's forearm in concern for his health.
Ludo Bagman was unfortunately around and began his rather loud speech to the crowd to start getting them riled up for the game.
As the Veela entered the stadium, Harry felt the power of a hundred of the beautiful women hit his mind and just as he was about to slam his defences against their onslaught, he paused at feeling nothing. Blinking, he glanced down at Hermione's continuous touch and raised an eyebrow at that. He also caught a slight blush on her cheeks as she quickly turned away to joke about something with Mrs Fudge.
Harry knew he could fight he Imperius, he knew he had been trained to fight attempts to control him through the Force, he knew the stories about the Veela's Allure and that many were just stories with no facts behind them, he also knew that he had not been affected by Fleur at Hogwarts. But she was just one Veela, not a hundred, why had it not even pushed at his mind?
He would need to meditate on this further.
He glanced around and saw several men in positions of potentially embarrassing themselves, others were looking around in surprise or shock. Some merely sat smiling at their partners instead of the dance on the pitch.
It was educational to see Arthur carefully pull Ron from the edge of the Box, a partially crushed Shamrock hat in one hand while the other seemed to be twitching as if trying to grasp something and crush it. Percy was simply looking at Penelope as she held his hand with a look of confused awe. Ginevra was staring at the Pitch with a look that was a mix of hunger and fear.
Abaddon simply raised his wife's hand and kissed the back of it and wasn't that a weird thing to see. Abaddon had apparently gone and had plastic surgery to look incredibly similar to a young Christopher Lee or, more accurately to Harry, a younger Count Dooku. Apparently, Abaddon's plan had more than born fruit. Now, Harry just needed to see if Abaddon or even himself would survive this game. And if there was an aspect of Abaddon that Harry regretted, it was the need to turn everything into a game and prove his superiority over others.
Hopefully it wouldn't bite them all in the ass.
Sirius had been bound to his chair by his cousins while Ted was laughing at Sirius' reaction. Cornelius held his wife's hand with a smile as she blushed at him.
Glancing at the Malfoys, he saw Lucius acting like a statue that was shaking slightly as he struggled not to give in to the temptation. The woman beside him was watching the crowd in amusement at their antics. Draco was looking around in confusion at the people around him, unsure of why they were reacting like they were.
Then the crowd cheered as the Leprechauns entered the pitch.
Harry wondered if the game would play out exactly the same as last time or if it would be a brand-new game?
He mentally shrugged as he leant back to enjoy the game anyway.
Harry was enjoying a conversation between Hermione and someone he presumed to be an Unspeakable when the Force hummed a warning, frowning, he looked around and saw nothing worrying. Hermione had blinked as she looked around herself and then cocked her head to one side, her frown growing as if she could hear something he couldn't.
Stepping beside her, he waved to Cornelius to join them as his gut churned at the sudden spike of danger.
Drawing his wand, he looked around and caught the sight of someone of no importance by the entrance to the tent, quietly waving their wand around and leaving a trail of coloured glows.
Harry grunted in that direction and Hermione snapped her attention in the direction he was facing. His wand snapped up and a pulse of grey slammed into the individual's hip, crushing it under the bone breaker and the man in Death Eater robes fell to the ground screaming in agony.
Hermione's red spell splashed over him a moment later, apparently, she had been practicing the speed of her drawing her wand.
"Jane!" Harry yelled, "Death Eater!" A shield flowed from his wand as he deflected a spell into the tents roof by accident. Harry glanced and saw another completely unimportant person twisting his wand to cast again. He flicked his wand and a light green spell split the man's arm from his shoulder, red sprayed across the tent wall and the face of a nearby man.
"Hermione," Harry called, "Defend. I'll attack."
Meanwhile, near the Minister, Abaddon stood with his wife beside him, Abaddon on defence while his wife was twisting and weaving her magic to lash out at those attacking them. Between them they were protecting the officials around them while carving apart any who attacked them.
Harry flicked his wand sideways twice and up once, using the Force more than his magic as he pushed towards the entrance of the tent. He didn't want to be in here if the extension enchantments collapsed. One attacker was sent flying to the left, the second to the right and the third went flying straight up, to fall a few moments later and shatter his limbs on impacting the ground.
Using the gap, the pair broke free of the trap, Harry pointed at the are the man had been casting at, "Hermione, Ill cover us, see what you can do."
Quickly, he conjured a series of walls to protect the tent while Hermione began her work, Jane joined him moments later, a cut on her hip was bleeding, but not too bad. She moved to his flank and joined in setting up defences, "Two more down in there. Lost three civies in the start. Didn't even smell them."
"Portkeys?" Harry asked as he wove a series of spells to catch a spell and return it to sender with one of his own following it.
"Ministers still here, so locked down." Jane said as she summoned a chair in the way of what looked like an entrail expelling curse.
Hermione called from the tent entrance, her hair rippling as the wind blew past her into the tent, "Two minutes and it'll collapse when it all unravels, I can't stop it."
Abaddon stepped out of the tent and sent a wave of fire towards the attackers to drive them into cover, meanwhile Sofia was twirling an obsidian dagger in one hand and her wand in her other, muttering a series of spells rapidly in a strange sequence.
Harry glanced over them, "Hermione, leave it, protect the Countess, Jane with Hermione. I'll work with Ab... the Count."
Hermione nodded and passed him her wand already working to cast shields and deflect attacks on Sofia. Jane growled but joined Hermione by summoning and conjuring items to absorb attacks on them.
Harry stood next to Abaddon and together they quickly moved into a rhythm as if they were extensions of each other. Pushing forward towards the attackers and gaining space for the civilians to escape. Winding deeper and deeper into the Force as one sensed a threat and the other ended it with a splash of colour.
"I need a sacrifice!" Sofia yelled towards them men as she neared her chain. Abaddon simply grabbed the attacker Hermione had stunned by the entrance with the Force and threw him at his wife, who rammed the obsidian into his heart as he flew right at her.
The moment the man's heart was pierced, there was a great cracking and it looked like shattered glass fell from the sky. Sofia yanked the blade free, spilling blood over her pale cream dress robes as she turned towards the tent. "Blocks down! Portkey now!"
A moment after she yelled that; a series of cracks echoed around them as the attackers apparated away now that their prey had escaped. The bodies of the fallen followed a moment after in swirls of colour from the portkeys on their person.
Harry sensed the Force scream and he flickered from point to point as he apparated between the women and the tent, reaching deep within the Force and his magic to form a thick shield. Abaddon appeared behind him, his hand on Harry's back as he pushed power into the teen while also casting a second shield behind Harry's own.
A few seconds later, there was a sudden rush of air towards the tent when the internals seen through the entrance, suddenly looked about as large as the stadium itself, the air rushing in to fill the gap, before it twisted and collapsed into a small ball and exploded.
All that air had to go somewhere, and that was outwards. Luckily, it was not in all directions at once. Unluckily, it was in thin jets that carved into everything around them as the ball that was once a tent span in the air, a screaming whistle like roar popping their eardrums as it erupted.
Harry's shield took the brunt and was close enough to the point of origin to shield a large portion of the grounds. Unfortunately, the air blast carved through a large number of nearby tents of the rich and powerful, in turn destroying the enchantments and causing more chaos and potential carnage in its wake.
Four spins of the blast hammered into Harry's shield as he strained to hold up against the threat before his spell collapsed, Abaddon's own spell angled to deflect as much as it could rather than block it fully as Harry had attempted. The angle difference allowed it to survive the second impact of air, but not the third.
Thankfully, Hermione had dug a hole in the ground which Sofia had reinforced with transfiguration and Jane had summoned the men into the hole as they jumped in themselves.
The pressure wave that followed the tent being torn apart and all the remaining air being expelled in such a forceful and short period, levelled those tents nearby but the majority of the energy had already been dispersed.
Harry awoke to find Jane, battered and bruised at the door, watching the hall. Hermione was asleep, her head on the bed and his hand grasped in her own. Her back would be hurting when she awoke with how she was hunched over the edge of the bed in her chair.
He blinked a few times before giving a slight cough.
Jane quickly moved to him, and passed him a cup of water to sip, "Saint Mungo's. You're good. Exhausted but good. Count Dooku left with his wife to their home. The attack put them on edge."
"Minister?" Harry asked before taking another sip.
"Alive but scared." Jane answered, "There were other targets. Scrimgeour and Robards are dead. Hightower lost an arm and is at home, he refuses to stay here. Bones lost an eye, took a rotting curse to the face, monocle saved her life."
Harry coughed and paused as Hermione stirred, he waited until she sighed and settle again, "Weasley's? Blacks?"
"Weasleys are all alive, they were being evacuated when Death Eater's attacked the muggle farmers family. Used them for entertainment, nothing as bad as they've done previously, but still disturbing. Arthur and the Blacks saved the family and drove off the Death Eaters. They were mid fight when the tent exploded, scared them off."
"Tonks and her family?"
Jane waved towards the door, "Nym was on guard duty, managed to warn them something was going off, Andromeda and Ted escorted the children to the nearby wood, a few scratches is about as bad as they got. Nym is outside in the hall now, she's let us know if anyone is on their way to us."
She paused and glanced at the door, "I'd be much happier to get you behind walls and defences I know. Want me to get a healer now or let you rest and wait until the morning?"
Harry growled slightly, "I hate hospitals, get me home." He looked down at Hermione and ran a hand through her hair, disturbing her rest and she began to stir, "She'll hurt her back like this, best get her back and into a real bed."
Jane smirked at the teen before her and shook her head, as she walked towards the door, she talked over her shoulder at Harry, "Wake her up and get dressed, it shouldn't take long once I can find a healer."
"What do you mean Itzpapalotl is dead?!"
The Greenhorn blinked and wiggled a finger in his ear to see if he could hear anything better while Graves laid into one of the analysts.
"Why the fuck, in all that's Holy, did no-one say anything!" the woman ranted while prodding the poor analyst's chest with the sparking tip of her wand.
"Because it was not relevant to your cases Auror Graves." Came the rolling thunder bound in the vocal cords of the Chief.
"But Sir!" Graves began before being cut off with a simple gesture of their boss.
"No." He gestured to the analysts in the room, "Out. Now."
As they scurried from the room and Graves fumed, the greenhorn stayed in the background trying not to draw attention to himself, but was immediately noticed and pointed to a chair to sit in.
"Now," the Chief began, "You are going to listen to me, and you are going to keep your mouth shut until I am done. Understood?"
Graves shuddered in rage before nodding, "Yes sir."
The Chief grunted at that, "We received a report from Teotihuacan that the Blood Courts were at war at the start of July. Apparently, one of the Ancients was slain on the equinox and their rivals started tearing up the territory between them. In July, we finally got a team into the region who found out it was Itzpapalotl herself. Her temple was gone, signs point to a major use of power at the site, no-one knows if it was magic or something the Vampires unleashed on each other. Hell, she could have done it to herself in some mad scheme of hers."
He gestured to the calming Auror to take a seat as he took one himself, "This is all confidential and you have no need to know about it, but the only reason I'm giving you this much is because her Domain covered the area around the Dooku incident. The President knows I'm telling you this as well, I already ran it by him. I knew, that if you got wind of it, you'd investigate personally, and neither the President or I, want to have to tell your grandpa that you got yourself and a rookie killed down there. Or worse."
He leant forward and looked her in the eyes, "Are you good, or do I have to lock you down for the foreseeable until I can get your grandpa here to talk some sense into you?"
Graves growled in frustration and ran her fingers through her hair, "Fuck!" she took a deep breath and then another, "I'm good. I'm good." She looked at the Chief, "Dooku was seen in the day, so he's not an Elder, is it possible he was working for one?"
The Chief shrugged, "No idea. If he is, then no one's talking about it or mentioning names." He waved towards the world map on the wall, "I've already got our allies watching the borders, but he snuck in before, its likely, he'll do the same and get out without us noticing."
He stood and patted her on the shoulder, "If the Spirits are willing, he's stuck in a Vampire warzone, and they won't take kindly to outsiders. It's likely they will deal with him for us, until we know one way or another, we can only keep our guard up and eyes open." He motioned the rookie to join them, "Get her a coffee and call it a day, neither of you will get any work done today."
As he walked away, Graves looked up and watched his back before glancing at the Greenhorn beside her, "Don't worry about me greenhorn, you get yourself home and get some rest. I'll see you tomorrow."
The greenhorn sighed and followed her as she left the room, "So, where are we going?"
"We, are going no-where. You, are going home like you were told." Graves answered as she returned to her office.
The greenhorn snorted at that, "Look, let's just save us time and all the clichés. You're still going after Dooku, I'm your rookie, so I'm going too." He moved across to his desk and grabbed his briefcase and began packing his stuff, "So where are we going?"
"Fuck it." Graves muttered as she shook her head with an amused chuckle, "Interpol. Best guess, Dooku already left the country and is up to something. Had an old friend at Langley look into a few bits for me. A Count Dooku apparently studied at Oxford in Genetics, the issue was that when my friend looked at the paper copies of the records, he wasn't there."
The greenhorn frowned, "So he's building a false identity? Why genetics?"
Graves glanced at him, "Do you really want to know what a wizard who specialises in genetics could do?"
The greenhorn froze and looked at her in horror, "Fuck no, I've seen enough movies to know where shit like that can go."
Harry smiled as he stood by the entrance of platform nine and three quarters, waiting for Hermione and her parents. He gave polite nods to those who passed him, the odd greeting passed his lips to those worth his attention that used this entrance.
A twitch of a finger jammed the Creevey's camera before he could take a picture of Harry and get himself into trouble as they passed. He gave the awestruck boys a smile and wave as they passed, resolving to have a few words with them about taking photos without permission and breaches of privacy. He wouldn't be too harsh, but they were going to get themselves in trouble if they weren't careful.
Jane stood beside him, watching the crowds while Tonks, as she preferred to be called, stood on the other side of the doorway. She was quickly gaining confidence in her duties and using her training to enhance her natural skills.
With a cry of greeting, Harrys small smile grew into a wide grin as Hermione hurried over but stopped herself from just causing an issue with his bodyguards. Harry chuckled and opened his arms for a hug, and he grunted as the air was force from his lungs as his ribs creaked under her crushing hug.
He wrapped his arms around her and gave her a gentle squeeze back, "It's only been a few weeks, but I missed you too." Looking up, he gave the adult Grangers a smile and nod, "Menny, Helen, good to see you again, everything okay?"
Menny nodded as Helen grinned at her now blushing daughter, "We got the contracts sorted last night, we should be able to start on testing in the next few weeks and hopefully the staff will have a sample soon. If they don't have anything by summer, we'll go with plan B."
Harry nodded at them and nudged Hermione towards her parents, who survived their own hugs from their daughter, "Good, call Dobby if you have any questions or need anything, he'll either sort it out or let me know."
He motioned to his guards and turned towards the entrance, "Come on Hermione, we need to get going, this year's going to be something to see."
Thank you to all my reviewers: Sozin's Flame; twisterblake2015; BloodyParty; Keiron20; Th3D3athOfM3; Kelvrin; RaidenRoxx; ; Spartanhybrid1.5; willam and jack and jake; Jtf0012; Red555; malinkody; peachx89; spanky1482; Lycan01; Pyrophoricity; grovepjp; demon87; Firescout; mwinter1; Lord Halcyon; marius1117; JraittM; Hankton; Vyoom; George Cristian810; Sanders7201; Black Magic99; ColovianHastur; wanderingwitchelaine; starboy454; Bearmauls; HughJasz; Toffeecat15; Thyrann; hekpup; cameron1812; stars90; 13; Enthessi; Hankton; Amyliozora; Last Divine Shadow; huongdaoroma ; Figggle ; D'yavol Lucifer; Pottersparky.
Thank you to all my guest reviewers as well.
AvidReader2425: He will get some out of it, mostly resolving around his early childhood traumas and that it wasn't his fault. His other issues aren't likely to be touched much, beyond very broad terms until he feels he can trust his psychiatrist enough and even though would bind him with unbreakable oaths to not risk others discovering the truth about Harry. Sirius is heavily damaged goods, he needs stability and healing before he can become stable enough to not do something stupid. At least in this lifetime, he has a chance to heal and avoid Grimmauld Place. Those two parts alone are a great help to him, plus he's surrounded by others who want to protect and help Harry without ignoring Sirius' issues. But, he is too rooted in his black and white, good and evil, philosophy to follow Harry right now.
Tony McNucklz: I was just going to kill Dung offscreen at the beginning, but then I realised that his most defining trait is that he is a survivor and a source of information for Dumbledore. He's smart and cunning enough to know where the wind is blowing when he's sent to ruin someone Dumbledore deals with daily as a work colleague, if not a friend. If he would do that to her, then Dung has no chance. So step one, who could protect him? Step two, get something that person wants. Step three get their protection. Step four, gains something which will keep you protected as going through steps one to three are stressful and dangerous as it is. Crouch was tortured by Azkaban for a short period and then basically kept drugged up in a basement but cared for. Numb to the world and unable to act, but still aware of his surroundings. At no point is he sane, he's gone much too far for that. In canon, he also broke free of his father's control and immediately acted to escape. That displays a clarity of thought and will that is amazing to see after all his imprisonment. He believes in the cause of his master who didn't turn on him, I have him having an interest in acting and taking on roles due to his ability to pretend to be Moody for a year without others noticing oddities, or at least acting on those oddities. Crouch is just his oldest mask and role he has played, now, he gets to expand and explore other masks and it pleases his Master. Yes, Harry is aware that Neville is likely being groomed as not only a spy but his replacement in Dumbledores plans, Harry is going to be guiding all their training to critically think about what they are being taught, he's just going to give the best image of the abilities and skills he is teaching them. He's also aware that Neville doesn't want to fight, so is purposefully supporting that so that Dumbledore is the one pushing to conflict, not Harry. And yes, Dumbledore has been in place too long for his rivals to really push back against him, so he's gotten lax in those skills. He expects a Dark Lord to attack from without, not within the system. Plus, Harry is pushing for reforms that would be seen as beneficial by the underdogs of society, for Dumbledore to shut them down, makes him the bad guy in politics. Lavender just happened to be at a party and see things, connecting fragments into a cohesive image. Dumbledore, if he was invited to such events or attended would have seen similar to Lavender but believes that only a skilled and mature rival could be facing him off from finding the truth out. Harry may have potential, but he is still a child. Dumbledore blinds himself as he can't be wrong while Lavender lacks that bias.
red demon161: Bertha Jorkins was on holiday visiting relatives, not as a tourist. I couldn't think of any reason why she would have been there in canon beyond that and decided to keep her visiting, but also give her a valid reason for doing so.
Ptool: I have no idea how big this story will get. I have a plan of a timeline, but the actual length of chapters? No idea at this time. Several chapters recently were written as a single chapter and then split into smaller sections.
ItMeYaGril: Lavender pleasantly surprised me as I was writing her. She is observant and connected at school, known as a queen of gossip amongst her year has to have some skill and ability to see what others are doing or hiding to build such a reputation, add in that she is a pureblood in a small community, I decided to have her father be in a influential law firm which opens doors to her. I was so glad to get Tonks away from Dumbledore's cult.
UnlawfulGentleman: I loved your viewpoint of Ron and the fact he is a normal teenaged boy with his famous and incredibly good/bad luck friend who doesn't do anything to stop his life being like that plus his genius female friend who is focused on Harry's survival. There is also the fact that these three major points in his life occur after Harry's return and this Harry is only aware of the fourth years betrayal as he left at the end of the 5th year in the Ministry Battle. This allows Harry to guide Ron to a more agreeable future for Harry's plans.
CatScratcher: I had honestly forgotten about that one.
Erozoth: sorry you feel that way about the story.
redroajs1: Thank you for your review and the constructive criticism, it is appreciated. I believe in this case it's a style where I am looking at the scenes as a series or set of films rather than as a single novel, that mindset is how I work and develop the story, which will colour how the chapters go. I will try to bring more points of view in for other characters for future chapters as currently it is very focused on Harry at the moment.
Guest: Okay, presuming that all those comments were from the same person. Air Superiority is indeed very powerful, but nukes are too messy for Harry to use against Voldemort, too much collateral damage. Gundams are not my thing and Im not a mecha type person. (I have had many debates between me and my wife about what counts as mecha and whats really big power armour). Fiendfyre is indeed terrifying but must have limits or the world would be a barren wasteland when some idiot lost control in the wilds somewhere. And no, parrying that wont work at all. Transfiguration could work on someones clothes, but you require a strong mental image and the right spell to do that in a fight. Much easier to just blow the person up. True masters have the skill and ability to use it in a fight, most others don't last long enough to use it to its full potential. That form of immortality would require you to duplicate every cell in your body perfectly, you can try, but don't lose track of what you've copied or else you may acquire issues. As for the Star Wars side of the story, youll see eventually whats happening there. I have a few sections already written, but I need to get this section back on track first.
Khavros: While the story won't be split on , it will be on AO3 when I finally get it shifted across there and neatened up. Ive started working on that, but its going to take time to get it all up to date.
Tscchope: Ron isn't a spy for Dumbledore, but his family believes in the man and his causes, so he would be more of an unaware informer, at least for now. Harry didn't design a lot of the tech he used, he just put things together in ways that made more sense to him and his plans. He knows how a lot of the star wars tech works, he knows enough of the modern earths tech as well. His problem is upgrading one to the other without a lot of the intervening advancements that allow you to produce the star wars level tech. So he's got to reverse engineer his knowledge to try and bridge those gaps, until then he will have to get others to try it for him or just plain cheat with magic to start the development of new technologies. Its not a quick or easy thing to do.
Djberneman: translating the wording can give many options here, but you'll see where that goes in a future chapter. Harry used the Dark Side techniques he knows and legilimency to put Abaddon into Gilderoy Lockharts Obliviated body after getting the mans willing, but lacking understanding, agreement and knowledge. Effectively a willing sacrifice for the mental construct to possess. Not something he would have been able to do with a more mentally capable and aware subject, but he used the lucky results of the chamber to his advantage. The plastic surgery to change his appearance helps as it is much closer to Abaddons mental image of himself that he has shaped, less Dysmorphic issues that way.
Mikael Skoglund: Sidious was killed by Montu. He then possessed one of his failed clones (hence his later appearance) Sidious was the master of Olana Chion (Darth Lumiya). Anakin was rescued by clone troopers under Sidious' command and returned to Coruscant where he had surgery to save his life. Chion decided to 'tweak' her masters plan and retain Anakin Skywalker as a Hero of the People, injured fighting the dangerous Jedi terrorists, rather than have Skywalker die and a new minion suddenly appear encased in life support equipment/armour. By the time Sidious returns to Coruscant, Olana Chion has maintained order as the Chancellors right hand during his period of healing from a Jedi assassination attempt that failed but resulted in horrific injuries. She learnt her masters tricks well and was too publicly useful to be disposed of easily.
Figggle: Sorry to hear that.
Jose19: That's the stupidity of the Siths mantra, grow strong but not too strong to rival your master. But then that would gradually weaken the Sith as each Lord would be weaker than their predecessor if they died of old age. Sidious has plans to be immortal so this works for him. His predecessors, much less so. Dooku was training Harry to be his successor, he knew he was old and realised that Sidious would not allow another rival to rise, so he protected Harry from Sidious to give his heir the chance to become powerful enough to defeat Sidious. Dooku expected to die and was willing to sacrifice himself for Harry's sake. At the beginning, it was different and Dooku saw a powerful tool, but Harry grew on him and treated Dooku as a father figure, relationships change over time with events if given the chance. Sidious did see Harry as a threat and acted to destroy him, unfortunately for Sidious, Harry had been doing his own thing which ruined Sidious' carefully orchestrated and balanced schemes. Sidious' plans were convoluted and required everything to work precisely as he desired. Harry's plan was usually, 'Im going to sneak in. Well that didn't work… time for excessive firepower and chaos! There, that worked.' Or otherwise known as Advisor/Mentor: "Harry, no." Harry: "Harry, yes!"
Winterwester: Glad you are enjoying it, more will be slowly put on Ao3 as I find time (rare that it is) to go back over chapters, neaten them a little and move them across. Im working on sections showing the Star Wars setting, they will be up at some point as well. Weyland simply made bird shaped Golems that are powered by himself to act as extensions of himself to explore the rest of the galaxy alongside those he feels a connection to. He cannot leave the planet, his creations can.
Regarding Perenelle handling Harry with little trouble:
Apparently, some reviewers were unhappy that Perenelle beat Harry. Usually referencing that she is a housewife…
Harry walked into that meeting presuming that there wouldn't be a fight, he had a bodyguard with him, and the Force didn't warn him of any danger as there was no danger intended towards Harry Potter, so there was nothing to sense.
Perenelle set up the trap as a contingency just in case someone was acting against her through Harry Potter. The moment she saw Harry, she knew he wasn't just a genius child or a partially (self?) tutored one who found another alchemists journals. His soul was too old and damaged for the flesh containing it, so Perenelle activated the traps presuming a polyjuiced threat had taken Harry hostage and was trying to kill her.
Perenelle isn't a housewife. She also isn't just a very old witch who specialises in Alchemy. The Flamel's are known to have a legendary item which provides immortality and turns lead into gold as a basis of what people know about them. And that's in the muggle world, never mind the magical world who would know more.
Voldemort got Quirrell to break into a Gringotts Vault rather than try and take it from the Flamel's directly. He may not have had the opportunity to even try, but do you honestly think someone like Voldemort wouldn't have a few plans in his head of how to get such an item from its owners?
Perenelle at minimum, is an over 600-year-old veteran of wars, assassinations, dark lords and rivals who can and do plot in a timeline of decades if not centuries. She has a very small list of people she can trust and that just gets smaller every few years, either through death, betrayal or both.
Just try and imagine what she is capable of. She is older than Tenochtitlan. She was born at the beginning of the renaissance. The Hundred Years War started in her late teens. She was older than Dumbledore when Columbus discovering the America's. She's older than Vlad Tepes if he were Dracula in this world (neither confirming nor denying such a statement :P )
Three continents were discovered over her lifetime (Norse explorers were in North America before she was born, but Europe forgot that, so technically four continents). The world and the countries within it have drastically changed in her lifetime. And it would be stupid to think that she has never stopped learning and refining her knowledge and skills in all those years.
Can you imagine that kind of person?
Also, until Fantastic Beasts, we never saw one of the Flamel's, only heard about them. Personally, I like to think that the elixir of life they can produce can halt aging, therefore, as long as they keep using it, they wont physically age.
Harry is a Sith trained Force user and wizard with fragmented knowledge of a Dark Lord in his head. He's got a few years of a galactic war in his experience and a body that he's trying to improve to reach his previous levels of fitness and muscle memory. He may have power and a decent amount of skill.
Even with the "Potter Luck", she still got the drop on him. It wasn't a fair fight, and she wouldn't risk allowing it to be one.
Regarding Peter Pettigrew's end and Harry's lack of response:
As far as Harry care's, Peter doesn't actually rank as a threat in Harry's mind. He's had over ten years and done nothing more than hide with them. Two years with him sleeping in the same room as Harry and Peter did nothing. Peter can obviously turn back to human form and organise a situation as shown in the canon third year, but only to protect himself. He is a coward, weak of mind and will. For Harry, the biggest point Peter was a threat was in the tournament during the ritual, something Harry has no interest in repeating as it did before.
Does Peter have a decade of information while spying on others? Yes, maybe it isn't that important but there are useful fragments here and there, and that's ignoring that Arthur likely brought some of his work home or discussed events where Peter could overhear things.
Did he have access to the entire school, its contents and population for several years with a skillset focused on stealth and espionage? He was a member of the marauders, involved in making the map, never mind his part in all the 'pranks' they performed. He was a young illegal animagus as well. He might have been a follower, but he wasn't carried by the others, he had to have some skill and talents of his own.
Harry's view of Peter Pettigrew is built upon flawed and biased information with a very small pool of interaction to build such a viewpoint upon. This image of the man was obviously flawed and, in my story, at least, very wrong. Peter's worth for Harry was just as a useful tool to get a trial for Sirius and to get his Godfather out of Azkaban, that was it.
Meanwhile, in this story, Peter is a threat that had over a decade of preparation to bring about his revenge. So, here, he had targeted the children of those who had looked down on him as a teen and placed mental commands deep in their minds. When a trigger command was given, then the victims would go on a rampage and then kill themselves.
Can you imagine the pain and horror such an event could cause? It would bring the country to its knees with one sentence.
Luckily, Peter never got the chance to trigger his plan.
Technically, Lucius Malfoy just saved the UK Wizarding World…
As for Peters death, the truth of the events is being kept need to know and very few actually need to know it at this time. Harry and his contacts aren't on that list.