Author's Notes: Hey there, readers! So it's been about two months since I've updated this story, and I felt really guilty about leaving you guys wondering if I had abandoned this before it even got going. Not the case at all! I've been spending most of July and August working on the next two chapters of this story, and I just want them to be absolutely perfect for you guys, so I can't guarantee when they will be posted. When they are, I promise you that you will love them. So much happens all at once. The chapters first of all will be much longer, at least twenty pages in length if not more. Also, Harry goes on his first adventure in his journey to find Sirius, and I and will open up a side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe which so far hasn't been seen. But for now, I wrote a little something off the cuff just to tide you all over. Please let me know what you think in the form of reviews!
CHAPTER 2: We Are The Ones, The Ones You Left Behind
"I love it when a plan comes together!"- John "Hannibal" Smith- The A-Team
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Albus Dumbledore was having an existential crisis.
Last night his former student, the inimitably evil Tom Riddle, had his coming out party by casting the first shot in the Second Wizarding War, a conflict which everyone said they didn't want but everyone and their grandmother had spent the last fifteen years preparing for. Forgive the massive understatement, but this was not good news. Innocent people, wizard, Muggle, and non-human alike, were now going to suffer and die for absolutely no good reason. People will be tortured. People will be driven to madness or at least the very brink of despair. People will lose their entire livelihoods and sense of purpose for living. Brother will turn against brother, and most of them will be scarred for life when they are forced to kill in order to defend themselves and their families. It will be a long, protracted war of attrition, filled with tears and gnashing of teeth, and even if the good guys won, it could very well cripple the Wizarding World for good. What was it that great, laconic Muggle King Phyrrus had once said? Oh yes: "If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined." So it would be with the final death of the Death Eaters. The worst part was the almost Ragnarokesque inevitably of it. This war had been a long time coming, and its delay would allow the rot beneath wizarding society to fester into a cancerous, toxic cocktail of hate that was worse than any potion brewed by Severus Snape. The most that Albus or any reasonable person could hope for was that when the survivors began to pick up the pieces during reconstruction, they would learn to not despise each other so much afterwards. Yeah, like that was going to happen.
On the other hand, the Daily Prophet's coverage of the dreadful duel between him and Tom at the Ministry of Magic the previous evening had provided the perfect distraction for a much more dreadful piece of news: Harry Potter was missing. Harry Potter, the one boy in all the world, chosen by fate, who could stop Riddle's reign of terror...somehow, he had vanished from Dumbledore's radar. He was officially off the chess board.
Albus refused to use the word "dead". He couldn't say that Harry had died last night. Not until it was confirmed by the Unspeakables, and Albus had good reason to believe that the Chosen One's apparent suicide attempt wasn't the final end of the troubled young boy who had been thrust against his will into greatness. Nothing was impossible with magic.
Nevertheless, burdened by his carefully constructed house of cards seemingly about to collapse all around him, Albus briefly rested his head on his outstretched hands. He thought of crying at the possibility of Voldemort actually winning, but Albus had come from another generation where men did not cry, so he kept it to himself. He had to keep himself composed. After all, guests were arriving.
Minerva McGonagall's head appeared through the fireplace.
"Miss Granger is ready to see you."
"Good. Bring them up."
"Of course. We'll be present momentarily."
As he waited, Albus sighed forlornly. The previous night, when Remus Lupin and Hermione Granger had informed him of the bad news about Harry's leap of faith, he was led to believe that Harry's impaired mental state was somehow his fault. As if he were the villain of this story and not Tom Riddle and his gang of bigoted thugs. Miss Granger's sanctimonious and dare he say hysterical chewing out of him came as something of a shock. Couldn't the brightest witch of her age see that what he was doing to Harry was for the greater good? Did she not realize that this was the worst time to have a divided house? If he were a less kind man, he would have called Miss Granger a useful idiot, the term Vladmir Lenin used to describe American Socialist Party members earlier in the century. In general, it described a person who unwittingly helps the other side of a war by caring more about justice than winning. War was the antithesis of fairness and justice, and if you allow the enemy to have a platform, eventually they will only take it away from you. Countless millions of men, women, and children had sacrificed their own happiness for the greater good in the past, so what tragedy is one more, especially one as privileged as Harry Potter?
In his mindspace, Albus the great wizard was considering the possibility that he had become too Machivellian in his old age. The guilt that he was experiencing as he recalled Granger's face, full of despair and righteous anger on behalf of her friend weighed heavily on his mind, recalling his brother Aberforth at their sister Ariana's funeral. He made some pious remark and blew Abe off because he didn't want to acknowledge that his brother was right.. Albus's vast intelligence allowed him to rationalize virtually every decision he has ever made, but when he couldn't, he was beginning to realize that instead of swallowing his pride, he just ran away.
Not since Gellert have I felt this conflicted...
There were four loud knocks on the front door to Dumbledore's office, buoyed by the perpetual chatter of teenage conversation.
"Enter" he said serenely.
One by one, the four guests entered.
Minerva McGonagall, the head of Gryffindor House, entered the room first. She carried a solemn and world weary expression on her face implying that she had seen too much crap in her life, although to be fair, she always looked that way. Following her inside was Hermione Granger who appeared anxious and impatient if her labored breathing meant anything. Perhaps Minerva in her younger years was the same way before life beat her down. Following both of them wasRon Weasley, who Miss Granger said that she refused to leave Hogwarts without. Ron looked exhausted after the previous night's events at the Ministry and just as bewildered as to why he was in the Headmaster's office. His eyes darted all around the office at the sounds of Dumbledore's array of gizmos. Finally, there was Harry Potter, the man of the hour, his face grinning and his bespectacled eyes grinning with a cocksure attitude.
"Welcome" said Albus Dumbledore, keeping a stiff upper lip by hiding his own anxiety, fatigue and exhaustion. "Tonks, you're among friends, you don't have to disguise yourself anymore."
"Oh, thank Merlin. I was starting to feel sick hearing these kids all day and their bloody relationship problems" said a mezzo-soprano female voice.
The Harry Potter doppelganger morphed immediately into the lovely shape of Nymphadora Tonks, the young Metamorphmagus who had been working as Dumbledore's spy at the Ministry. Ron's eyes widened as large a Margaret Keane painting.
"What the bloody hell, 'Mione?" he asked naively, turning to face his tentative girlfriend. "I just took a piss break with Harry, and it was Tonks the entire time!?"
"Language, Mr. Weasley!" shouted McGonagall.
"Yes, Ron, it was me" said Tonks, mildly apologetic. "I didn't like it either. Boys bathrooms are disgusting."
"But we were talking about penis size!"
"I, um, I had to stay in character" Tonks gulped guiltily.
McGonagall looked apoplectic.
Hermione grabbed Ron's shoulder, and indicated that he should sit down, which he did. All of them did.
"Mr. Weasley" began Dumbledore, "you're the only person here who's not yet in the know, so I will be blunt. Last night, your confidant Harry jumped into the Veil at the Department of Mysteries."
When it was made clear by his confused expression that Ron didn't know what that was, Dumbledore continued.
"There is a room in the Department of Mysteries charmingly referred to as the Death Chamber, where the Unspeakables study all the mysteries that surround this plane of existence and what comes afterward. Inside this Death Chamber is a relic from a day long passed that is simply called The Veil.. Even I don't know how old it is, where it came from, who created it, or otherwise. It is a complete and total mystery to everyone just as much the Voynich Manuscript is to the Muggles. What we do know is that The Veil is a barrier between this world and...and somewhere else. We don't know where it leads to, but no one who has stepped through it has ever returned, so we have to assume that it is a point of no return. A one stop destination that leads to death."
At first, Ron didn't say anything, but eventually, he asked: "The one that Harry's godfather fell into?"
"And...you're saying Harry stepped through it too?" muttered Ron, his pale Irish complexion paling just a touch further, his facial muscles now exhibiting the same sort of subtle dread that everyone else in the room was also featuring.
Dumbledore solemnly nodded his head.
"So he's dead" repeated Ron. "I...and you don't want anybody else to know about it. That's why Tonks is here pretending that she was Harry the whole time."
Dumbledore nodded once again. He spoke:
"It is imperative that nobody know about this. Nobody. Harry Potter is more than just a boy, more than just our friend. He is a symbol of all that stands in the way between freedom and tyranny, between joy and terror, between life and death. If word were to get out that this happened, it would only embolden the very same Death Eaters you yourself so valiantly fought against last night. Knowing that his only foe is vanquished, Tom Riddle would begin openly committing genocide on all that he considers beneath him, as would his acolytes."
Ron gulped in fear, and Hermione grabbed his hand in an embrace.
"Merlin help me. I'm only fifteen years old here, I never asked for this!"
"It's going to be alright, Ronald" she said, looking straight into his eyes. "We have a plan in place."
"A plan?!" Ron shrieked. "We had a plan last night, and look how far that got us! Even bloody Dumbledore had to retreat!"
Dumbledore's own eyes twinkled at that statement. Before Hermione and Tonks were about to protest Ron's statement that minus the dreadful news about Harry, the raid at the Ministry had been a complete success for the Order, the Headmaster butted in:
"I wouldn't call what I have in mind a plan so much as an experiment, Miss Granger. We are in uncharted territory here. Never before has the entire sanctity of a civilization literally rested on one person's shoulders. Now Mister Weasley, you do yourself a disservice. I believe you to be much brighter than you or your Professors or even your own family give yourself credit for. Between Harry the Hero and Hermione the Genius, you seem to have little use in this little trio of yours, but I disagree. I think that you will be very useful to what is about to transpire. Before I explain to you anything further, tell me your thoughts on what the Order should do. Remember that we are at war."
"I...I don't like being put on the spot like this" stuttered the young redhead.
"Perfectly understandable. I asked because I consider you brave. If I recall correctly, you helped save the school and your friend's lives during your first year, did you not? And you helped exonerate Mr. Hagrid during your second year, is that not true? You ventured with Harry into the realm of arcomantulas despite your crippling fear of spiders all to save one man's life. A boy with that kind of tenacity is exactly the kind we need right now."
"So what are you asking me to do?"
"I'm asking you what we need to do to rescue Harry."
Ron sunk in his chair even lower than he already was, embarrassed that every eye was on him, even Fawkes. With a heavy dramatic sigh, he began to speak:
"My D-dad always said that war was all about making the hard choices. When there isn't any easy way out, you show what kind of person you really are underneath. That it was easy to be a hero when you were holding two Queens in your hand, but it's when you've got nothing but two pawns defending is when you show what kind of player you really are. He said that real heroes choose to do the r-right thing even when you're in an impossible situation. That you do the right thing even when it breaks your heart to do so, when it makes no fucking sense to d-do so. You sacrifice yourself so nobody else gets h-has to get hurt. Sorry for cursing, Headmaster."
Tonks laughed bitterly and McGonagall's eyes looked like she wanted to deduct ten points from Gryffindor just on general principle, but Dumbledore's eyes continued to twinkle. "Under the circumstances, swearing is a natural choice to make, Ron. Pray, continue. I admire your sentiments."
"Uh, yeah" muttered Ron. "I...I'm in shock as this, Headmaster, but if it were me, the brave thing that I would do is try and pull Harry back from the dead somehow. I would send a team in through this Veil and go and rescue him."
Dumbledore for the first time smiled brightly.
"And that is exactly what the Order intends to do."
GRUENELLO NATIONAL PARK, SECTOR 979, GALADOR
Gruenello National Park, named after the mythical hero Gru the Wanderer of the Aragones First Nations people who countless eons ago inhabited this part of the planet, was a nature lover's paradise. Situated in the southern half of the planet, and encompassing over two million square miles, the sheer amount of diversity of flora and fauna present was remarkable and noted throughout the cosmos as a must see locale. Animals and plants which might have gone extinct hundreds of thousands of years ago were still alive and in full bloom, most of them having been painstakingly preserved by Galadorian naturalists to near perfection. Even those that had gone extinct had been recreated via the miracle of genetic engineering, mostly without incident. If Christians of Earth who imagined what the Garden of Eden must have been like were dropped into this apotheosis of a national park, many would assume that they had been transported back to the beginning of time. Given that Galador dwelled deep within the Triangulum Galaxy, which was close to three million light years away from the pale blue dot that we call home, most Earthlings unfortunately wouldn't be visiting this oasis of tranquility anytime soon.
Good thing Harry Potter wasn't most people.
A sourceless wind rose throughout a secluded section of forest. Accompanying it was a strange, unearthly droning sound. The mysterious wind blew leaves and twigs in every direction. A small domestic animal similar in appearance to an Alpine marmot yowled at the enigmatic event, and scurried away from the spot where it had just relieved itself.
The droning sound intensified, and with it, a bubble made of pure mystical energy appeared out of thin air. The eerie, haunting melody finally diminished, and the mystical bubble, which was azure and yellow in color, abruptly popped, leaving a confused but determined young hero panting on the ground. This hero lifted himself up and dusted his clothes off as he gazed at the unfamiliar terrain that laid before him. He may as well been deep in the Forbidden Forest back at Hogwarts for all he knew. Then again, he didn't expect this place to be familiar. Shutting his eyes briefly to center himself, Harry Potter concentrated on the facts at hand. Within the last hour, he had survived death itself. He had become one with the universe. He had just stared down a trio of unimaginably powerful beings and won. Now, he didn't know where the hell he was and was lost in a primeval land of enchantment. Harry didn't care. He was ready to take back his life and take back what belonged to him. Nothing, nothing, was going to stop him from reuniting with his godfather.
To Be Continued...