Harry stared at the sky in fascination. Unlike the usual blue of a bright morning sky, the orange hues of evening or the black of night, it was crimson. An extremely deep shade of crimson. At a closer glance, he realised it was the exact same colour as blood. The clouds passing through the eerily crimson sky changed shades on a moment's notice though he observed no single cloud was the same colour and they seemed to alternate between colours with no rhyme or reason. Red, blue, green, yellow, purple, pink, orange, violet… any and every shade of colour Harry had ever seen in his life were present on the clouds. He wondered why the crimson of the sky did not seem overwhelmed by the multitude of colourful swirls travelling across it. In fact, it looked like the crimson seemed to swallow up the clouds. A spark lit up his mind as realisation struck. Those were not clouds at all. There were swirling vortexes – Magic, if Harry was right about his guess – of energies that changed form and colour in a pattern – if it was a pattern – that was hard to discern.
Lowering his gaze found Harry staring at the distant horizon where the unnatural sky and the land he stood on met. His eyebrows furrowed in confusion at the narrow band of blue bordering the horizon. A shift of his eyes to discern the land he stood revealed a vast expanse of hill and hillocks filled with naught but bare ground. Seeing such a bare landscape was jarring to his visual senses for he was used to the watching the bustling chaos of London or the mind-bending magic of Hogwarts castle and the green and trees occupying its grounds.
Harry knew he should have been far more alarmed and apprehensive on finding himself in a strange land consisting of an abnormal sky, unnatural clouds and a desolate world he had never witnessed even in a dream. He should have been looking for ways to get himself out of the predicament he was currently in. It might be a trap set by his enemies or his mind had finally fractured and the swirling vortexes of colour above his head were pieces of his fragmented mind he needed to capture and piece together like Dudley's puzzles he used to play with when he was not locked in his cupboard and had the house to himself for a few hours.
Yet, Harry did nothing but stand there in silence. For reasons he was sure he needed to learn, he had never felt more at peace. His mind, his still fractured and slowly healing mind, told him he need not worry. He belonged here, in this strange landscape of crimson, blue and brown containing innumerable swirls of ever changing forms and colours.
Feeling quite enthused, Harry spun on the spot, taking in the land he had never seen before yet his heart felt a peace it had no right to. The smile on his face did not vanish when he spotted the only anomaly on the barren landscape.
Smile shifting into an expression of curiosity, Harry began walking towards the object he seen sticking through the ground several yards away. As he came closer to the object, he realise it was not an anomalous growth springing up through the ground.
Harry blinked once he was finally close enough to recognise the anomaly. It was a sword. Part of the narrow silver hexagonal blade was below ground while the hilt glowed in the pale light inundating the land. The egg sized rubies studding the hilt burned with an energy he had only felt once before when he had wielded the sword in defence of his life.
Harry would recognise the sword even when his life was at an end and his memories were nothing but dust. The sword had saved his life and the life of his best friend's sister years ago. He had used the ancient weapon to slay the basilisk within the Chamber of Secrets and destroy the diary which was a horcrux of Tom Riddle.
The Sword of Godric Gryffindor. The ancient relic of one of the Four Founders of Hogwarts made of goblin silver, a material which does not allow dirt to stain it and imbibes only that which makes it stronger.
Standing before the weapon, Harry wondered why it had appeared to him now in this barren landscape. He did not know where 'here' was and doubted there was any danger he needed to face at the moment. Dumbledore had narrated the tale of the sword, explaining that the Sorting Hat would bestow the fabled weapon onto a Hogwarts student in his time of need, though Harry had no idea.
Harry quickly looked around his surroundings and found nothing but the strange landscape. Shifting his gaze to the Gryffindor's sword, he mused on drawing on the sword. There was no danger present from what he could see though it was no guarantee. As Ron once put it, He 'could be fooling around in Madam Puddifoot's Teashop and the lace would still try to kill him'.
Resolving himself to escape the situation he would get stuck, Harry extended his right arm and gripped the hilt. A split second later, bright yellow flames wrapped around the hilt. In his haste to get away from the flames, he tried to pull his hand only to realise his entire body would not budge an inch. Flames began slithering their way across the blade and up his arm. Harry could feel the flames were harmless – they even imparted a sense of warmth to his soul – for his skin remained unharmed. But he did not trust that situation to last long.
Harry began pulling hard as the flames made their way across his elbow. He exerted every ounce of strength he possessed but his body would not budge. For a fleeting moment, he wondered if the sword had cast a petrification hex on him. Shaking off the thought, he pushed himself harder for the flames were now covering his chest and were moving to his hips and legs.
Taking a deep breath, Harry tried again with all his strength and felt a finger move. The happiness at feeling one 0f his body parts move was taken over by the absolute fear of the fire crawling up his face. He tried to open his mouth in a scream-
June 3 1996
Harry woke with a start, his breathing loud in the silence of the room. His body felt far too warm though he could not feel the accumulation of sweat that usually followed such vivid dreams. Sitting up, he wiped his eyes to remove any traces of sleep and yawning. Pinching himself to ensure this was not another part of his incredibly strange dream world, he glanced around the brightly lit room and sighed. The lights had turned on again.
The lights at Grimmauld Place used a modified Lumos charm which activated when the specific ward connected to them detected the person within was awake. It had taken Harry a few tries before he realised the lights could be turned off by a simple voice command. He hated the ward as he preferred the darkness of the night when we woke up from a bad dream or nightmare. It helped calm him down far more than a well lit room.
Vowing to remove the detection ward soon, Harry threw off the blankets and placed his feet on the ground, allowing the slight chill of the wooden flooring to seep through his feet. Forgoing his glasses, he walked up to his newly discovered door, opened it and stepped onto the balcony overlooking the street. He had discovered this piece of architecture yesterday when he had been staring at the street in thought and his right hand was absently stroking the window. Three circular strokes in what we believed was just another spot on the window had brought him surprise and anxiety in equal measure when the entire wall began transforming in so silent a manner that Harry who was generally used to the bustle and noise of his transfiguration classroom was unnerved. Moments later, a door formed in the centre of the wall with the two windows moving to either side of the wood. Interest warring with caution, he had opened the door – wand in hand - in the hopes of finding a secret room hidden within a space expanded wall or a rather dangerous trap and found nothing but a plain balcony with tasteful railings. Another piece of the balcony puzzle he had discovered after much experimentation was that it could not be seen from anywhere but the room he currently resided in.
Harry was not sure why Regulus - if it was Regulus in the first place - would choose to create a balcony using silent transfiguration and then hide the entire enchantment using powerful obscurity and notice-me-not charms sealed under a subtle password charm that all but screamed paranoia or, more appropriately, the fear of being caught. Harry figured it might have been the latter considering the comments Sirius made on his mother's behaviour and the unpleasant nature of her portrait before he had it removed. From what he knew of Walburga, he surmised that she was an incredible control freak with a streak of insanity and a penchant for corporal punishment whenever one of her precious rules were broken.
I bet Vernon and Wlaburga would have shared torture notes over a cup of tea. Harry's mind supplied, causing him to grimace at the thought of a female version of Vernon stalking the halls of Grimmauld Place.
Sirius did tell Harry that Regulus was the favoured heir and son of Walburga though standing in the cold air wafting across the balcony, Harry surmised that the balcony might have been Regulus's attempt that having a piece of his life that his mother did not control, though the balcony did feel a tad too ostentatious an attempt at teenage rebellion. He snorted at the thought.
Harry had no right at calling this attempt ostentatious when his rebellion consisted of teaching a secret group of students under the nose of the Ministry hag who turned Hogwarts into a metaphorical Privet Drive and was reported missing since the centaurs carried her away. Thankfully, the DMLE were none too keen on enquiring into the matter for neither him nor his friends had been interrogated on the matter. Dumbledore did share a few stories and anecdotes on Director Amelia Bones and he mused if she had deliberately delayed the investigation or, even better, bothered to do anything more than write a four- line report and file it away in some dusty drawer.
That brought up the thought as to why Harry or his friends had not been questioned by the DMLE or the DOM regarding the battle at the Department of Mysteries. The Ministry must have been swamped with the news of Voldemort, the daft public crying in outrage at the incompetence of the equally daft government but that would mean information regarding the battle would be considered high priority and Harry and his friends would have been questioned on the matter by now.
Chalking the matter up to Fudge's usual incompetent bumbling, Harry stared at the buildings across the street as the sky lit up in pale yellow signifying the imminent sunrise. Leaning on the railing, he cast a tempus charm and took one look at the time before heaving a deep sigh. He had sequestered himself in the room the moment the Weasleys had left the building and poured the ward schema he had collected from his spells at the Gaunt Shack. Despite getting rid of the horcrux in himself, he had retained his ability to speak and understand parseltongue which had proved to be very beneficial. From his limited knowledge and analysis of the ward schema, he had learnt that there were no more five wards on the structure though they were cast in an entirely different language – Harry had thanked Dumbledore profusely for teaching him the analytic spells for wards cast in esoteric languages – and had to be dismantled with the greatest of care lest his attempt inform Tom and start a fight he doubted he could survive at the moment, especially when that bastard's previous horcruxes were threatened. For now, he felt himself incredibly lucky for retaining his parselmouth ability as wards cast in a specific tongue could only be safely removed in said tongue.
While Harry never really had much faith in divination, he could understand that his life so far had been a miraculous string of luck and irony with events occurring in the fashion that at a fast approaching point in the future, he would have to face Tom, whether he was prepared for the resulting fight or not. There were plenty of times over the past four years where wondered if Tom was just that stupid enough to believe in the words of a drunk and attack a child who had been part of the world for no more than a year and three months.
Harry drooped at the weight on his shoulders. The horcruxes needed to be destroyed, Tom had to be defeated, his followers imprisoned or killed and the Council's interest in him needed to be neutralised or evaded. Prophecies, He fumed in anger, were not worth the effort people exerted to evade them.
And the Dark Lord would mark him as his equal.
Harry did not have a clue as to what the true meaning of the line was. It was one of his biggest problems at the moment. He could not match Tom in terms of knowledge or skill. If the ritual he had taken part in was executed to perfection, he would have had access to a greater level of information, gained improved skills and would not be suffering under erratic mental defences or a fractured mindscape.
There was no point in crying over spilt potion. Albus Dumbledore was dead and could not help him from beyond the grave. He was going to have to do the best he could with what he had. Though there was an extra piece of the puzzle he had yet to solve and was currently tearing his hair out on his pathetic attempts at understanding the problem.
And He would have power the Dark Lord knows not.
Harry's talk in the afterlife with the Magic-personified entity (he still had trouble believing it) had provided him with the information that he possessed a True Magic though, to be honest, he had yet to understand the true meaning of the term. Even Dumbledore, a centennial mage with decades of experience with the esoteric art, knew very little on the subject. His conversation with the deceased headmaster on the subject was confusing, to say the least.
May 21, 1996
"Professor, the… entities I met during my stint in the… umm, other world told me that I possessed something called True Magic. You said the magic was called Projection and gave me an explanation which contained no useful information. I can't seem to find anything on the subject in the books you've given me and you keep running in circles around the topic every time I ask you any questions." Harry's tone was hard and accusatory. "I want to know why you refuse to speak about 'True Magic'. You promised to hold no secrets from me, Professor. I hope you're not trying to break that."
Albus Dumbledore winced. Harry's accusations were true and right on the point though he had not even tried to break his promise. He had danced around the point long enough. He leaned in his high backed chair, preparing for the long explanation that would follow his answer.
"I have not broken my promise to you, Harry. I never intended to break my word. But you must understand that I cannot answer certain questions whether you ask me twice or twenty."
"Why not?" Harry knew his tone was petulant but he did not care at the moment. He had skimmed entire volumes on the foundations of magic itself and found nothing but philosophical ramblings and analogies that made no sense to him. "Is it because of another oath?"
Albus smiled. "No, Harry. The reason I cannot answer your questions on the matter is far less complex than you believe it is. The answer is that I do not know."
Harry scrunched his face in thought. "You don't know how to explain it to me? I know I didn't understand most of the material you taught me and probably years away from understanding the rest but you can teach me the basics, can't you? I'm not stupid."
Albus's smile widened. "Miss Granger would be right pleased to hear you show an interest in learning." He tactfully ignored Harry's blush of embarrassment. "No, Harry, you miss understand me. I do not possess the knowledge you truly need. I know no more on the subject of 'True Magic' than any other magus who does not possess one."
Harry rubbed his forehead in frustration. Dumbledore no longer held back any information he requested unless it was bound by another oath though the headmaster still held the annoying habit of dragging the discussion beyond the necessary length of time. For a fleeting minute, he wondered if Dumbledore had ever spoken in direct, concise terms. "Explain, Professor, in clean simple terms."
Albus wanted to point out that Harry looked exactly like Amelia when she found one of his answers particularly frustrating. The expressions on the young man's face stopped him. "The explanation is long winded, Harry. I suggest you relax." When Harry glowered, he wisely chose to begin explaining. "As you know, Harry, Magecraft is defined as the actualization of miracles, or magical effects, as per the rules of the Thaumaturgical system one utilises to achieve said effect. Thaumaturgical system – Thaumaturgy for short - is the general term one uses to address the numerous schools of magic that are present all across the world. In this case, schools of magic refers to the type of magic you rely on."
"For example, Europe and MACUSA uses the Roman Thaumaturgical system which relies on foci using the cores of powerful magical species to help a magus focus the magic within their bodies, allowing one to perform extremely efficient spells. Magi who practice this system are known as witches or wizards."
"Africa relies on a Spirit-based Thaumaturgical system that calls on the spirits of their ancestors and utilises a heavy emphasis on soul magic to achieve magical effects. We call people who practice this system Shamans, Priests, Divinator and a whole host of terms."
"In a similar vein, many magical nations practice their own form of magic – a Thaumaturgical system – each possessing its own particular set of laws, limitations and dangers. No system is considered superior or inferior to the other though," Albus chuckled, "there is a long standing debate between the Chinese and Japanese over who created the art of Onmyoudo. It is a particularly entertaining event to watch a Chinese and Japanese representative snipe at each other but it is no less grating on the nerves."
"I digress. The point, Harry, is that, given infinite time and resources, it is possible for all of these systems to achieve any event that is considered possible in the present." Albus leaned forward and interlocked his fingers under his chin. "Muggles have travelled to the moon and back, Harry. Have you ever heard of the event?"
Harry nodded. "My primary school teacher once played a recording for my class of the first moon landing. He told us that we studied real hard, we could do the same things those astronauts did. Wait!" He wondered if Dumbledore understood the terms. "Let me explain. Recordi-"
Albus interrupted with a smile. "No need to explain the terms, Harry. I understand them." At Harry's surprised and mortified look, he explained, "No need to feel embarrassed, Harry. Lily used to organise a Television night at Potter Manor every month for the Order and strong armed us into attending them for 'educational purposes'."
Harry beamed at the thought of his mum lecturing the Order. He chuckled at an impression of his mother dragging Dumbledore to sit in a sofa by his beard.
Albus smiled in grief at the thought of those lost by a madman's lust for power. "I learned by several things during those sessions. I daresay so did the rest of the Order but did you know no magus has ever set foot on the moon?" At Harry's blank look of confusion, he elucidated, "Given proper coordinates, we can apparate or portkey to anywhere on the planet. But we do require the proper coordinates. Since Magus has ever travelled to the moon, we do not possess the coordinates of the celestial object and, therefore, cannot apparate or portkey to the moon."
Harry nodded in understanding.
Albus smiled. "Consider the Lumos Charm. It conjures up a source of light. Muggles have electricity which can utilised to perform the same function and more."
Harry's brows furrowed as his mind raced in thougt. The headmaster had the annoying but useful habit of deviating from his explanations into analogies that made no sense upon first glance, forcing him to analyse the words and their relation to the current topic. "So…" He chose his words carefully, "If I understood this correctly, you are telling me that… Science and Magecraft are two sides of same coin."
Albus beamed with pride. Harry was a talented magus who simply needed to apply him. While reading books or theory papers might cause him to lose interest, a practical explanation of the topics allowed him to grasp them with ease.
Harry asked, "Does that mean that science can achieve everything magic can do right now?"
Albus nodded. "Provided infinite time and resources, Science can achieve everything possible in magecraft. In reverse, Magecraft can perform any task achieved though science provided infinite time and resources." His tone and expression turned grave. "However, there are certain effects, miracles, phenomena… use any term you wish. There are some things that neither magic nor science nor a combination of both can achieve."
"However, there is a form of magic that surpasses all of our expectations, which ignores the laws of nature and rewrites it to suit its whims and is capable of phenomena that it is simply beyond our feeble imagination. The name given to this kind of magic is known as 'True Magic'."
Harry blinked at the explanation, still trying to understand what he was hearing.
Albus chuckled at the confusion visible on Harry's face. "I had the exact same look when it was first explained to me too. In simple terms, True Magic is capable of grand feats that we cannot imagine as it ignores all laws of science and magic. They do not have limits in a manner that an average magus or scientist can measure."
Harry struggled to comprehend the scope of the headmaster was trying to explain to him. His brain felt sluggish at the information it had just received. Trying to not look like a blubbering fool, he asked, "So how does a person gain True Magic?" And how could I be born with a magic like that?
Albus frowned. "To be honest, Harry, I have no definitive answer to your question." He paused for a moment and considered the words he had just spoken. "Let me rephrase my answer. There is no definitive answer to that question. Not even the most learned magi at the Clock Tower or the Masters of the International Guilds possess an answer to that question."
Harry raised an eyebrow.
Albus's moustache quivered. "According to accepted lore, the Root - also known as the Akashic Records, Truth and hundreds of terms over the millennia – is the source of all events, phenomena and possibilities. It is the place where souls originate from and the where they travel to after death. It is the archive of all possibilities of every single event of the past, present and future of every world. A magus achieves True Magic by travelling to the Root and creating an Akashic Gate, a path from which True Magic originates."
Harry felt his mind explode at the information he was receiving. Metaphorically, of course.
Albus nodded. "One of the requirements to achieve a True Magic is that one must be the first to travel through a specific path leading to the Root. Those who come after the magus, even if they use the same theory and methods, cannot achieve True Magic. However, even if you do reach the Root, there is no guarantee that one will gain access to True Magic."
Harry outright scowled and muttered. "Of course, we wouldn't want to make things too easy now, would we."
Albus laughed heartily. "That is because my dear boy, while Magecraft represents the pinnacle of human ingenuity, True Magic is the providence of a God. Remember that True Magic obeys no laws but its own or that of the Root though I am sure if they do use any laws at all."
That shut Harry up. The words of the entities he had faced in the afterlife (if that could be called as the afterlife) had mentioned about him being born with a True Magic. Could that mean…
Albus frowned as he witnessed a change in Harry's countenance. "Is something troubling you?"
"No…" Harry stammered. "Please continue, Professor."
Albus narrowed his eyes for a moment but returned to his explanation. "Achieving True Magic is considered an irrefutable crime against both humanity and the planet."
"Is that the reason why the Council wanted to kill me?" Harry asked shrewdly.
"It is one of the reasons, Harry." Albus answered in a tone without inflection. "In this case, I am talking about the Root itself. Any magus who successfully forms an Akashic Gate is hunted by a 'red shadow'."
"A Red Shadow? What does that mean?" Harry questioned, knowing the headmaster had avoided answering his previous question in full. He would just repeat the question at a later date.
Albus shrugged. "Unfortunately, Harry, that is the limit of my knowledge on the subject. All of the information I possess are from ancient tomes held in secure vaults that none but those who have proven themselves may access."
"You haven't really answered my question, Professor." Harry said, consternation twisting his features. "You tell me True Magic is something Gods possess and is achieved through the Root, can perform amazing things and a dozen other pieces of knowledge that makes no sense to me. So far, you've told me what it can do. The instructions on trying to achieve one of them are so vague that they're practically useless. Does anybody even understand what path or Root or red shadow or Akashic Gate actually means?"
Harry felt frustrated at the non-answers. "On one hand, you tell me magecraft can do many things except break the laws of nature and magic. On the other, you tell me I can achieve magic that can literally make me a God. How do I achieve the power of a God who can ignore the laws of reality by using magic that has no choice but to obey the same laws?"
"It has been far too long since I had a proper student, Harry." Albus chuckled. "You give an old man hope that students actually do employ their intellect to solve prolems." He plucked a lemon drop and popped the candy into his mouth. "There is a proverb that explains the conundrum: 'If you know, you need only ask. If you need to ask, you will never know'. Root, the red shadow, a unique path, Akashic Gate… These are names we have assigned to things we cannot even begin to quantify. Even the term True Magic is a misnomer for it indicates that the magecraft employed by magus like me is a mere imitation, a fake passed for the original. Researchers employ such names to help them believe they have understood phenomena they have no hope of classifying in their neatly drawn, cross-referenced, indexed and proven-to-be-true tables. I can no more tell you what the Root or an Akashic Gate really is any more than I can describe the shape of the galaxy we reside in. Any true researcher of magic will provide the same explanation as I just did for even they understand the phenomena we explore is beyond human ken."
"As for the path to achieve True Magic, I truly do not know for certain if the instructions I have provided are real or merely fairy dust designed to provide answers where none exist. You must understand, Harry. True Magic is the term we employ to describe Magic of the Gods for that is what a user of said magic is to the magical world. I cannot grant you knowledge I do not have." He ended his answer with a sigh.
Harry felt frustrated but knew pushing the matter would be for naught. "So… how do I find some real information about it?"
Albus frowned. "Only a magus who possesses True Magic can give you the answers you need, I'm afraid." Searching his memory for the right answer, he said, "There are eight True Magics in the world and I can, without a doubt, say I know the identity of five. If the information you received from the entities is correct and you do wield a True Magic of your own, that brings the count to nine. My, that would bring the number of users I have met in my life to two." He preened. "I must be the first magus in centuries to achieve the feat, Harry, for meeting even a single user of True Magic is a rarity even for people who live beyond two centuries."
Harry scrunched at the thought. "Professor, you said that only one person can have access to the… Akashic Gate. Does that mean True Magic is passed down through family lines?"
Albus considered his answer. "From what little information was available to me and the rumours surrounding this entire branch of magic, I do believe it is possible for the user to pass on his True Magic to another though I do believe the magic transcends boundaries like blood. Personally, I have never known of any True Magic being passed down to a successor except in the case of the Hallows, the Peverell artefacts containing one True Magic each."
"Professor, were you not the Chief Warlock of Britain and the Supreme Mugwump of the ICW?" Harry asked tersely. "You must have seen, read or heard of something beyond vague, non-explanative answers and rumours."
Albus chortled. "Harry, you will soon realise that the world you see is merely a mask, a façade to hide the truth from the common magus. It is all a web of puppets and puppeteers.
My boy, very soon you will realise that the world as we know it is merely an illusion. There are strings within strings, puppeteers who are themselves puppets, masters who never realise they are, in turn, slaves to another. I doubt that even the hierarchy of power I have witnessed over the course of my life was nothing more than me scratching the surface of the answer."
Harry frowned at the incredibly vague but unsettling answer. Filing away his questions on the matter, he asked, "Could you tell me the identities of the True Magic you know of, professor?"
Albus popped another lemon drop into his mouth. "The three Peverell artefacts, namely the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone, and the Cloak of Invisibility, are imbued with the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh True Magics. In order, they are Amplification, Illusion and Concealment, to the best of my knowledge."
"Fifth, sixth and seventh?" asked Harry.
"In the order of their discovery." Albus clarified.
"What about the ones before them?"
A strange expression floated on the old man's face. "The Second Magic is possessed by one who is referred to as the Wizard Marshall by the Clock Tower, a magus known as the Kaleidoscope."
"That's his name?" Harry felt incredulous.
"No, but that is the name he is popularly known by." Albus replied. "His true name is never mentioned lightly."
Harry looked at the man with an odd expression. "From the way you talk about him, he seems to be a more dangerous and maniacal version of Tom. Is his name under a Taboo, professor?"
Albus chuckled. "It could not be farther from the truth, Harry. No, it is not fear of his strength, knowledge or age that drives magi to avoid uttering his name at all costs. The nature of his True Magic makes a magus, who possesses knowledge of the Second Magic, uncomfortable.
Harry wondered if it was simply another excuse to fear a name. "And what is the nature of his magic?"
Albus stared at Harry in silence for an entire minute before coming to a conclusion. Taking a deep breath, he muttered softly, "The Operation of Parallel Worlds."
"Parallel… Worlds?" Harry spoke in confusion, unable to wrap his mind around the concept.
"He is a magus who, by his attainment of the Second Magic, the Operation of Parallel Worlds, has the ability to travel across different worlds and timelines." Albus spoke softly. "I can write down his name on a piece of parchment provided you never, ever speak the name aloud."
Watching Harry nod in agreement, Albus tore a piece of parchment from his desk and wrote three words using a rainbow coloured quill.
Harry felt amusement at the strange colour of the quill Dumbledore utilised. He was more nostalgic than apprehensive about the headmaster's behaviour for he was reminded of Hagrid when Harry had first asked him about the Dark Lord everyone knew as Lord Voldemort.
Taking the parchment held out to him, Harry turned it around and stared at the three simple words on the parchment. This was the magus whose name even Albus Dumbledore feared to speak aloud. He wondered if the name was of German origin.
Kischur Zeltretch Schweinorg.
"I'll say it again. Never utter that name aloud. It is highly possible that uttering his name aloud could literally act as a summons for the Kaleidoscope and, in turn, might disrupt reality as we know it." Dumbledore warned. "Because of his possession of his Second Magic, any world he takes an interest in is irrevocably changed."
"Providence of a God." Harry muttered to himself at the explanation. Turning towards the Headmaster, he questioned. "What about the First and Third?"
"The user of the First Magic is reported to have passed away a long time, Harry." Albus's countenance turned severe. "The user of the Third Magic still exists."
Harry narrowed his eyes. His mind and heart were in complete agreement that he would not like the upcoming answer.
"Nicholas Flamel." Albus spoke in grave tones.
Harry coughed. Hard. Drinking the glass of water given to him by the headmaster, he asked, "Nicholas… Flamel? As in, the creator of the Philosopher's Stone?"
There was a gleam in the eyes of Albus as he nodded in affirmation. "Irrespective of what the legends say, I have it on good authority that the man - my former mentor – is over than fifteen hundred years old."
Dumbledore stood up, as he walked towards the window. "Nicholas reached the Root, and discovered the True Magic of Constancy. The Magic changed him, his genetic constitution was altered to such a fundamental degree that he is unaffected by any curse, disease or aging. He is the philosopher's stone, Harry. An eternal juggernaut unaffected by the waves of time."
"He's immortal?" Harry asked in shock. There were few things that drove the point home better than knowing that the person who wants you dead was both indestructible and immortal.
"Not quite." Albus replied. "I am sure he might be susceptible to the Killing Curse, though it is equally possible he might have developed some kind of resistance to block the effects of said curse."
"But the killing curse is unblockable, unstoppable and works every single time on something with a brain." Harry returned stubbornly.
Albus's eyes twinkled in mirth. "There is a magus in this very room who has proven that statement wrong twice in the past fifteen years."
Harry flushed in embarrassment.
Albus continued his lecture. "While the majority of the magical governments agree that the Killing curse is exactly what you say it is, the International Guilds can possess knowledge on how to counter the curse though I confess, as a Battle-Transfiguration Master myself, I have yet to hear of a method that can block the killing curse beyond physical shields."
Harry sighed in disappointment. Every time he believed he learned of a critical piece of knowledge, a dozen other questions appeared in response. There were days he wished Lady Luck would stay on his side for at least a year though it seemed Fate and Murphy's law were trying to make him suffer in any way they could. "So the Stone in my first year… it was a fake?" Harry asked, somewhat disappointed.
Albus sighed. "No, Harry. The Stone was the crystallised form of Nicholas's blood. It did possess the properties of extending one's life and/or healing terrible injuries though it did have certain limits. I had acquired the stone as a bait to trap Voldemort."
"But it was destroyed." Harry replied sullenly.
"It certainly did not." Albus replied instantly. "Your altercation with Tom's wraith caused certain complications that brought you to the brink of Death. I had to use the entire stone to bring you back to full health. I admit that my true intention for acquiring in the stone in the first place was to ensure that if you were injured by Tom, I would be able to save your life."
Harry narrowed his eyes in anger. "Did you set up the traps on the third floor corridor specifically for me?"
Albus shook his head. "You misunderstand my intentions, Harry. When yourself, Miss Granger and Mister Weasley passed through the traps, they were not the challenges I designed. I asked the staff to place the traps matching their specialities while I cast dozens of protective enchantments and wards on them. Why do you think Tom Riddle, one of the smartest people to ever walk the halls of the school, took over a year to get past the protections that three first years got past on their first attempt? He needed the time to slowly remove the enchantments I placed while progressing towards his objective."
Harry blinked in confusion. "Then why did you…"
"Why did I say I acquired the stone to heal you?" At the young man's nod, Albus said, "Because you and Voldemort were tied by the prophecy, Harry. I knew that Fate would conspire to pit you against each other no matter what I did. So, I sought to mitigate or help improve your chances in case you faced Tom in battle. Though, I must confess I never expected you and your friends to deduce the mystery of the corridor or try to reach the stone."
Harry felt mortified at underestimating the headmaster. For the past four years, he had wondered why the traps in the third floor corridor during his first year were so simple. Plenty of sleepless nights were spent on the ridiculous series of coincidences that surrounded the completion of their obstacles.
Harry and his friends accidentally discovering the Cerberus, Hagrid unwittingly informing them of Fluffy and Flamel and the Cerberus's weakness to music, the devil's snare taught in their first year, the flying keys requiring a seeker's skill, the chess set which Ron excelled at, the logic puzzle solved by Hermione and the Mirror which tested Harry's resolve. If Harry was inclined towards conspiracies, he would say that Dumbledore had well and truly manipulated them into being guinea pigs in an experiment.
Looking straight at the headmaster, Harry asked, "Did you know Professor Quirrell was possessed by Tom?"
"My suspicions were confirmed two months before you faced him before the Mirror of Erised." Albus replied without hesitation.
Harry though over everything the headmaster had explained regarding the incident. Finally remembering a question he had never found a satisfactory answer to, he asked, "Professor, do you know the true reason why I was able to burn Quirrell with my touch?" He had never believed that love of all things could have helped him defeat the greatest dark lord in history.
Albus sighed. "No, Harry. I do not. All the experts I consulted offered me plenty of hypotheticals and no solutions. Hundreds of ancient tomes and none contain a plausible theory or tale or even a rumour on how such a child could burn a victim of possession." He felt quite weary at the explanation. "Perhaps you will succeed where I failed, Harry, and the answer to the 'Mystery of the fire hands'." At Harry's deadpan stare, he looked sheepish. "I confess I have read a few muggle mystery novels in my time."
Harry shook his head in exasperated fondness.
Back to the present…
As the sky went from a pale to bright yellow, Harry mused on the rest of the conversation. At the conclusion of that discussion with Dumbledore, all he had learned was that True Magic was beyond anything he had ever witnessed and there was no guide book that would help him. Even asking another True Magic user was not an option for, according to Dumbledore, they rarely bothered to interfere with the world and Harry knew it would be a cold day in hell before he asked Nicholas Flamel for help.
"Will the magic present within me really help fight against Voldemort?" Harry wondered aloud, as the early morning breeze kissed his face lightly. According to Dumbledore, Projection was the ability to mimic all magecrafts with an ease that was considered to be terrifying by any magus learned in the lore for Projection could even mimic family magicks bound exclusively to a bloodline.
That was all the information Dumbledore possessed on the subject after which he suggested several exercises that might help Harry in gaining a better understanding of the ability. The deceased headmaster was adamant that Harry was using the ability without conscious thought and pointed to the patronus incident during Sirius's rescue as a major example. A few experiments on the part of Dumbledore with Harry as the test subject had revealed two important points about his ability. After learning of them, Harry had finally begun to drastically improve his learning curve though Dumbledore still believed it was nowhere near what Projection was truly capable of. He would have thrown up his hands in defeat if Dumbledore had not convinced him that his Projection would save his life though he had yet to see any true improvements that would allow him to take on Tom who had decades of experience with the magical arts.
Perhaps you're looking in the wrong place, or walking on the wrong path? His mind supplied unhelpfully.
Then there was his recent dream. It had been far too strange and he remembered the events with far too much clarity to dismiss it. Was Magic trying to give him a message? Or was it his ability, trying to communicate him?
Harry stretched his right arm, the breeze causing the hairs on his arm to stand up. With nary a thought, he materialised the Elder Wand and a subtle wave of power passed through him. Amplification… He pondered the name granted to the True Magic supposedly present in the stick of wood in his hand.
Bringing it closer to his eyes, Harry scrutinised the wand. Carvings resembling elderberries ran the length of the wand as the grey-brown wood felt extremely cool to the touch. Other than the uncommon appearance, he could see no unique patterns on the wand, carvings of runes, esoteric symbols or anything out of the ordinary. There was nothing about the wand that screamed power yet people had murdered each other to obtain this artefact.
Harry was bothered by the observation for he had utilised the wand to practice magic and it felt intoxicating. Every time he used the wand to cast spells, he could feel the power rolling off the waves in waves. His spells now packed a punch they had previously lacked causing him a great deal of worry about accidentally killing someone by not paying attention to the power imbued into the spells he cast.
However, despite all the power displayed by the wand, there were long stretches of time where it felt no different from a random twig. He could still cast spells and feel the magic flowing through the wand but the wand itself felt dead. It was another mystery along with the eerie self-awareness displayed by the wand. Stroking the wand along the grip, he dematerialised the artefact and walked inside past the temperature control wards which bordered the door.
Stopping before the study desk, Harry opened the bottom drawer of the desk and withdrew a large velvety cloth from its depths. Smiling at the sight of his invisibility cloak, he sat down on the desk-chair and began stroking the cloth, a habit he had developed whenever his nightmares became too unbearable and he needed an anchor to ground him.
The True Magic of Concealment… Harry wondered if magi were just that unimaginative. Remembering the prosaic names of the shops in Diagon or Knockturn Alley, he guessed it might be a quirk of the magical world.
His fingers caressed his cloak, the cloth feeling softer and, paradoxically stronger than anything he had ever felt. True Magic or not, his cloak had never failed him. No matter the situation, his family heirloom had always held true to its name and never his presence except to the Weasley twins who cheated by using the Marauder's Map. That was another question he needed answered as Dumbledore told him even the vaunted Magesight could not detect the cloak.
Staring at his cloak, Harry's mood turned pensive. Perhaps the magi who named the True Magic of his cloak were being wiser than he realised. He wondered if Concealment encompassed the meaning of the word in its entirety and the cloak he held could hide him away from everything; From the dark lord vying for his blood, from the public wishing that he was the saviour they wanted, from his friends who wanted him to have all the answers and, most important of all, from all the pain and misery he no longer wished to feel. Shifting his gaze to the brightening sky outside the balcony, he wished that the cloak could hide him away from the world itself.
He never noticed the cloak emanate an ethereal glow.
DMLE Director's Office
Every single nation part of the ICW possessed a Department of Mysteries, a department highly independent of the respective governments they were a part of and answered to the Alexandrian Archives, the research heart of The Clock Tower, the largest university for magic on the planet. Every DOM is led by a Director who acts as both the public face of the Department and is the representative of their respective ministries to the Alexandrian Archives.
As a consequence of the autonomy they enjoyed, there was little interaction between the DOM and the other departments of the Ministry except in cases of national crisis.
Today was one such day for the Director of the DOM of the British Ministry of Magic, Wilber Croaker, sat in the office of the Director of the DMLE.
"Bertie, I'll ask you again. Will you, or will you not, explain the discrepancy behind the events I have just spoken of?"
Wilbert's slightly wrinkled face held a blank unassuming look as he inwardly smirked at Amelia. "I assure you Amelia, I will give you answers as soon as you ask me a proper question."
Amelia bit back a sigh of frustration. "Pray tell, how did six teenagers – children who had yet to achieve their OWLs - and death eaters led by You-Know-Who break into the most secure department of the British Ministry in the middle of the night when I know security is at its highest?"
A shadow of emotion floated across Wilbert's face, but vanished before Amelia could register its meaning, causing her to mentally curse Wilbert's proficiency at Occlumency.
"The two groups infiltrated the DOM – again, the most secure department of the ministry – and then fought a pitched battle within said department, destroying the Hall of Prophecies and several rooms of unknown purpose before Dumbledore and You-Know-Who destroyed the atrium. Need I remind you that one of the teenagers involved in the battle was Harry Peverell, formerly of the House of Potter."
Wilbert smiled. "Ah yes, the Boy-Who-Lived. Fascinating individual, wouldn't you say?" He replied airily.
"That's not…" Amelia felt frustrated. The DOM was beyond her jurisdiction but the security of the department reflected on the Ministry and Wilbert's reticence in sharing information was beginning to grate on her nerves.
"Wilbert," she replied finally, "You know extremely well that the present situation is beyond the usual arguments over security between the DMLE and the DOM."
"You remind me of it far too much for my mind to forget the matter, Amelia." Wilbert piped in.
Amelia ignored the taunt, and continued. "Then you must recognise that it will be beneficial for us to work together considering the current state of affairs."
"You mean the Dark Lord's return?" Wilbert put in, still nonchalant as ever. "You do realize that the situation you speak of, while sensitive to the British Ministry, is of almost no importance to the DOM." He ignored Amelia's glare. "We are researchers, Amelia, and are protected by the Alexandrian Archives and, by extension, The Clock Tower. As much as it hurts me to say this, I have yet to hear any proper reason to pool our resources with the DMLE."
Amelia's features hardened. "In that case, Wilbert Croaker, when the time arrives, know that the DMLE shall focus on securing the Ministry, irrespective of whether our measures hinder the effort of the Unspeakables. After all, the DMLE deals with security of the realm and we do have a Dark Lord on the loose."
Wilbert's lips thinned. "That sounds remarkably like blackmail, Amelia."
Amelia smirked. "Of course not, Wilbert. I am merely detailing the measures I shall take as part of my duties to Wizarding Britain. I doubt the Minister or the Wizengamot will begrudge me on doing my job."
The man stared hard at Amelia for a moment before he relaxed into his chair with a smirk. "Well then, I seem to have my work cut out for me, don't I?"
Amelia narrowed her eyes. "What do you mean?"
Bertie's smirk deepened. "You wanted answers. I will answer what I can."
"I sense a but."
Wilbert grinned, much to her chagrin. "You always had excellent instincts, Amelia."
The DMLE Director ignored the compliment. "Enough with the jokes, Bertie. How was your department infiltrated?"
"Through the use of an obscure but useful artefact." Wilber answered promptly.
Amelia blinked at the answer. So used to the constant verbal jousting Wilbert usually engaged her in, the succinct but prompt answer had thrown her off and judging by the twitch of his lips, he had achieved the reaction he hoped for. Her eyebrow twitch became more pronounced.
Relaxing her posture and reigning in her emotions, she leaned forward, elbows on her desk and fingers entwined under her chin. "Can you give me the name of the artefact?"
Wilbert knew Amelia had no reason to hide her curiosity though the anger still blazed behind her eyes. "I am afraid that information is classified."
"Can you reveal the purpose of the artefact?" Amelia felt proud for not letting her annoyance seep through the words.
Wilbert maintained his insufferable smirk. "I can tell you it was designed to be a ward neutraliser."
Amelia's fingers tightened in suppressed anger. "If you cannot give me the truth, I suggest you do not lie to me, Wilbert."
Wilbert had a look of mock-disappointment. "I can't believe you would think I would lie on such important matters, Amelia."
"You would, Wilbert, especially if you wanted to send me a wild chase for non-existent clues. The last time I you did, my department spent three months searching for an invisible thief who did not exist."
"In that particular case, the DOM did not want the DMLE involved in any manner." Wilbert wanted Amelia to drop her line of questioning but he knew nothing but the truth would sway at the moment. He had offer enough to keep her sated but not so much information that she interferes in matters beyond her control. "Regardless, I have answered your question truthfully. A ward neutraliser disabled the protective measures on the DOM for the period of time it required six teenagers, a couple of death eaters and Dumbledore's Order to destroy most of our stock of prototypes."
Amelia pursed her lips. "Ward Neutralisers are brute force devices, Wilbert. They are used by common thieves or hunters who possess no knowledge of wardbreaking and are designed for low level ward scheme most commonly found on homes and basic civilian facilities. The only way those neutralisers can bring down wards is by either destroying the wards or the ward anchor and either action is known to cause cascade failure if not done properly."
"The wards on the DOM have not been damaged, disabled or otherwise tampered with. The DMLE's resident experts on wards tell me that, based on through analysis of the DOM after the battle, it appears that the wards have always been there. They tell me that the wards do not possess any signs of tampering, damage or repair. In fact, one could say that your department did not have a break-in at all. A ward neutraliser is incapable of what I just described, Wilbert."
Wilbert smiled. "Amelia," Her posture stiffened, "I once told you multiple orgasms in a single session were possible and called you me a liar in the exact same tone. Did I not prove you were right?"
"This," Amelia spoke in a tone that sent her fiercest aurors running for the hills. Wilbert merely gave a lecherous smile, "discussion is not about sex, Wilbert."
Wilbert's smile deepened and the heat in his eyes rose. "Pity. It would certainly be a far more enjoyable conversation."
"Wilbert." The name was spoken with a growl worthy of a dragon.
Wilbert gave a moue of disappointment. "You really need to loosen up, Amelia. How about we skip lunch and go back to my place?"
"DOM. Neutraliser. NOW!"
Wilbert flinched at the volume. "I do miss those screams." Noticing the wand pointed at his face, he put his hands in the universal gesture for surrender. "Your knowledge on the subject of neutralisers is severely lacking, Amelia. I did not think you, of all people, would be ignorant on such matters especially considering the House of Bones is famous for producing Artificers."
Holstering her wand, Amelia returned her hand to its former position below her chin. "Enlighten me."
For the first time since the meeting began, Wilbert nodded in sympathy. "All I can tell you is that the artefact I speak of does exist and was responsible for neutralising nearly every single piece of protection we utilised. Wards, charms, enchantments, intent-driven constructs and more obscure defences were all rendered non-functional for close to sixteen hours, a period of time more than sufficient for You-Know-Who, his minions, Harry Peverell," he ignored Amelia's curious look, "and his friends and Dumbledore's Order to wreck our prototypes. Decades of research and hundreds of thousands of hours of effort destroyed by a bunch of incompetent fools who were too stupid to understand what they were searching for."
"If the wards were rendered non-functional for sixteen hours, what were the Unspeakables doing during that period? Playing exploding snap!?"
Wilbert chuckled. "Eight of my colleagues were. Three of us were playing chess."
"You really must control that temper, Amelia. It is definitely not good for your health."
"Explain yourself, Wilbert."
Wilbert quirked an eyebrow at Amelia's stiff posture and the daggers flowing out of her eyes. "I believe you visited the DOM during the early days of your career as part of your duty as Director of the DMLE, yes?" Amelia responded in the affirmative. "I believe you had questions regarding the state of the rooms the papers refer to as," He rolled his eyes, "Time chamber and Death chamber."
"I believe," Amelia replied, "my questions were on the research apparatus that were not present within the rooms I was given a tour of. Even the room that held the much vaunted Veil of Death contained naught but the ancient construct."
"Congratulations, Amelia. You have yet to go senile." Wilbert clapped in response to Amelia's snarl. "Women. Always touchy about their age. I honestly don't understand why your sex puts up such a great fuss on a simple question." His smile widened at her suppressed scream of frustration. "All the rooms you visited save for the Hall of Prophecies and the Veil of Death, contain all of our failed prototypes and assorted junk that have no practical value."
Amelia pursed her lips. "Are you telling me the DOM stores their failed research projects just beyond the front door? Do you have any idea how stupid that sounds?"
Wilbert smiled. "It sure would, Amelia, if they simply stored the junk. You see, we at the DOM realise that there are many people who would love nothing better than to get their hands on our work. We understand that we cannot predict every single move one makes against us. So, we arrived on the idea of keeping our failed projects just beyond the doors leading further in to the department. All of the items, save for the prophecy orbs, destroyed during the battle were part of our defensive measures designed to attack intruders with extreme prejudice. Even if one managed to pluck the item of the shelf and walk, they would not cross ten feet before the item turned to dust. Our method ensures that we can use our failures in a constructive manner and any intruder who makes it past the front door is obliterated in a manner that leaves no trace."
Amelia closed her eyes and pinched her nose, wondering if Wilbert loved to induce a migraine every time they met. "Wilbert, do you understand how convoluted your plan sounds? Wards perform the same actions without having the added danger of having your prototypes stolen."
"I do." Wilbert replied without hesitation. "However, traps made of failed prototypes combined with wizarding spaces and redirecting portals have proved to be more effective than simply casting multiple wards. It was the artefact You-Know-Who relied on that turned our defences into useless pieces of magic."
Amelia sighed. "You indicated that the Veil of Death and the Hall of Prophecies are exceptions. May I know why?"
Wilbert shook his head in exasperation. "You really need to stop being so ignorant, Amelia." Ignoring Amelia's spluttered denials, he forged ahead. "The Veil of Death cannot be transported through any magical means of transport and cannot be transfigured, charmed, enchanted or otherwise tampered with. Any individual or group wishing to steal the Veil of Death must move the entire physical structure without magic. I certainly do not see You-Know-Who or the death eaters exerting that level of effort to gain a construct that responds to nothing and does not have a single practical use save for sending matter to places unknown."
"On the other hand, the Hall of Prophecies is freely accessible to the public. We simply do not advertise that fact. We used to extend our wards to protect the Hall of Prophecies but we removed the protection on the room after we received one too many requests from people who believed they were part of some great prophecy. At the moment, the prophecies are protected by a curse placed on the orbs. You-Know-Who must have believed the artefact would have allowed him to take the orb by force. Too bad he realised his mistake quickly. If he hadn't, you would have had a Dark Lord free Britain weeks ago."
"What would have happened if You-Know-Who had taken the prophecy orb?" Amelia asked in morbid curiosity, knowing far too well, at the moment, that Unpseakables were madmen who employed the most ridiculous defensive measures. One good thing that came of the explanation she received was that she finally understood how Arthur Weasley was found injured in the Hall during Christmas.
Wilbert scratched his chin with the air of a man thinking deeply over his words. "Pretty simple. If he had touched the orb and was determined to not be the origin, receiver or subject of the prophecy, the enchantments on the orb would have induced instant madness and inflicted a variant of maledictionem."
Amelia's gaze hardened. A Maledictionem, also known as a blood curse, not only rendered cruel effects on a victim, but also affected the victim's progeny. It was a conscripted spell which meant any individual caught using it earned a spot in Azkaban without trial. The Unspeakables were extremely lucky the DOM was not subject to the restrictions that governed the spell repertoire of the wizarding public. She expertly smothered the horror welling within her and felt Arthur Weasley was very lucky for simply sustaining injuries instead of an accidental blood curse infliction and cursed Dumbledore colourfully for putting his people in unnecessary danger. "Wilbert, you have yet to answer my question."
Wilbert blinked in feigned surprise. "I believe I just did."
"No." Amelia wished to bang his head against the desk. "You gave a long winded explanation of how DOM defensive measures work without explaining why the Unspeakables were absent during the events."
"I really wish you were a daft moron most days, Amelia." Wilbert replied with a smile that caused Amelia's anger to rise. "The section of the DOM in which the Unspeakables work is a massive Wizarding Space located beyond a warded door. When the artefact brought down the DOM wards, it simultaneously trapped us Unspeakables within said Space. We spent sixteen hours trying to break through the trap only to escape when the artefact disappeared."
The more she learnt about the Department of Mysteries, the more Amelia realised she was torn between considering them idiots with no shred of logic or geniuses whose plans tended to resemble Albus Dumbledore on his best day and hoped to Merlin it was not the latter. "To summarise the events, an artefact – whose identity you are still hiding – disabled the wards of the DOM in a manner that has stumped the best ward experts in my department, trapped every single Unspeakable within a Wizarding Space built by the Department of Mysteries and then proceeded to close every single avenue of escape you had at your disposal including house elves. That sounds too good to be true, Wilbert."
"Your mistake, Amelia, is to assume that reality must match your expectations when it is known to regularly surprise even the most learned or wisest of us."
Amelia sighed. She really a migraine reliever and a calming draught once this meeting was finished. "Do you realise the implications of the existence of such an artefact?"
Wilbert cocked his head. "I don't see why that matters to you. It was used against the DOM and we fall under the jurisdiction of the Clock Tower more than the British Ministry of Magic."
Amelia scoffed at the words. "I know the DOM is known for taking care of any problems encountered by themselves but this is not an internal matter. An ordinary thief did not walk through your doors. You-Know-Who and his death eaters did along with the Boy-Who-Lived and his friends and the truth regarding the events was reported on by the Daily Prophet no matter how skewed the article was. We are at war, Wilbert, and you damn well know it."
"It is of no consequence to the DOM."
Amelia growled. "It might not matter to the DOM but it damn well matters to the British Ministry of Magic."
"Protecting the Ministry is does not fall under the purview of my department."
"It falls under mine." Amelia replied swiftly. "I need you to tell me everything you know about the artefact."
"Neither the artefact nor its creator are any concern of yours."
Under the desk, Amelia balled her right hand into a fist. "When an artefact brings down DOM quality wards without alerting a single soul, it damn well is my concern. Wilbert, I do not wish to play your game any further. What do you need?"
"Ah! A bribe!" Wilbert clapped, an amused smile tugging on his lips. "I did not realise you were running for Minister."
Realising that Amelia was going to start throwing hexes, Wilbert quickly opened his mouth. "Alright, Amelia! If you want the information badly, I propose a trade."
"A trade?" Amelia spoke the words like they were a death sentence.
Yes. A trade." Wilbert looked at Amelia and scoffed. "I am not running a charity, Amelia. You wanted information. In return, I'm asking for a favour."
Amelia considered hexing the man before her. He would duck and roll and dodge and escape from the room but it would help her mood tremendously. She fingered her wand for a few moments, her mind furiously considering all possible angle before she deflated. "What do you want, Wilbert?"
Wilbert smiled. "I knew you would come around, Amelia. The favour I am requesting," He ignored her scoff, "is within your power as Director of the DMLE. I wish to interrogate the six teenagers who were the main factors that led to the destruction of my department."
Amelia's gaze narrowed. "Interrogation?"
"I am not going to employ advanced torture techniques." Wilbert sounded like he was disappointed with her assumption. "Jeez! It's like you don't trust me." He ignored her confirmation of said statement. "I wish to talk to them. I promise I shall not employ any form of magical manipulation during the interrogation. You may even place a trusted auror in the room if you wish."
"Is this a bid to recruit Harry Peverell?"
"A sane individual would not tangle with a Peverell."
Amelia was puzzled by his response. "What do-"
"Let my department interrogate the six teenagers in the DMLE interview rooms and, if you need to reassure yourself, you may place an auror in the room to supervise. In return, I shall supply you with the name of the artefact's creator and a piece of information I believe would benefit you in your war against our resident Dark Lord."
"No extra catch, Wilbert?" Amelia felt quite sceptical on the matter. Dumbledore had blocked any attempt by the DMLE to interrogate the teenagers and no Ministry official, including her, wanted to overrule the man especially when he threatened to provide an exclusive interview to Rita Skeeter detailing the Ministry's dirty secrets that were better left to history records. Amelia had never felt as shocked as she did for Dumbledore had never been as direct as he did in that moment. It had effectively derailed her assessment of the man although it meant that her interrogation of the teenagers never came to pass.
Accepting Wilbert's offer would mean nothing except gaining the information she would have obtained in another week when she sent the summons. Making up her mind, she replied, "I accept your offer with the additional stipulation that my aurors shall be obtaining the transcripts of your interviews with the teenagers."
Wilbert seemed to consider the offer for a moment before he looked Amelia in the eye. "I accept. Schedule the interview as soon as possible, Amelia. Events in Britain have stalled for the moment but they shall be picking their pace soon enough." Standing up and turning around without so much as a greeting, he walked to the door.
He opened the door and stepped out and stopped. Considering his words, he half-turned and said, "Hey, Amelia?"
Amelia stiffened at the tone, hoping that Wilbert did not follow his usual habit of taunting her every time he stepped out of her office. "Yes, Wilbert?"
"I think it would be a very good use of your department's time and resources to keep an eye on your new History of Magic Professor."
Amelia's eyes hardened at the words. After Mast- Majishanrodo Fernard – the man had insisted that he liked the title better - had introduced himself, Nathaniel Smith had spent the rest of the meeting glaring daggers, Carrow was torn between sneering and staring in interest, Tristan gave an appraising glance as always and Augusta looked one word away from falling in faint. She needed to understand why everybody she knew felt so apprehensive. "Why would it be a good idea, Wilbert?"
Wilbert's parting answer rang in her ears until she emptied several shots of firewhiskey and a calming draught to settle her nerves long enough to fully process the words and, promptly, groaned in frustration.
An unplottable manor
Standing before the twin doors, Percy Weasley hesitated. He wished to walk away from the manor without a second thought but his body did not seem to obey his wishes. Every time the thought to walk away crossed his mind, his hidden Gryffindor roared that a Weasley did not shy away from confrontations, especially when it dealt with a Lord of an Ancient house and certainly not when said House was ennobled. Not for the first time Percy wondered if the House of Weasley had some innate instructions built into their blood to behave like foolish individuals when the situation stood against them.
Percy slid a finger over the right breast pocket of his coat to ensure the letter was real and not a figment of his imagination. The letter – an official invitation complete with House Crest and the personal stamp of the Lord – was delivered to his apartment three days ago. He had spent hours poring over the high quality parchment and passed a restless night of sleep before he, with great trepidation, sent a reply with the news that he had accepted. The passing hours between his reply being sent and his arrival at the large wooden doors before him was spent wracking his mind for any clues as to why a Lord of a Noble and Ancient House would want to talk with the third son of a House disgraced as blood traitors.
Staring at the wooden knockers at eye level, Percy wondered how they not disappear from sight as the colour and grain matched the door before realising that his eyes were drawn to them by a pull of magic on his person. Taking a deep breath and calling on the courage which placed him in the House of Lions, he rapped the knocker twice and was not surprised to hear a metallic tong.
One of the twin doors opened inward without a sound, revealing a large entrance hall with an ornate staircase and brightly lit by the late morning sun.
Percy frowned at the lack of a presence at the door before flinching in surprise at a voice greeting him at knee level and quickly shifted his gaze downwards.
A house elf dressed in a well maintained sunshine yellow toga embroidered with the House crest greeted him with a cool smile. "Welcome to the Ancestral Manor of my Lord, sir. Who may I say has arrived?"
Percy swallowed his anxiety. "Percival Gideon Weasley. I have an appointment with the Lord of the House."
"Please come in, Sir." The house elf gestured towards the entrance hall and Percy walked in with wary eyes passing over every single corner of the room and adjoining parlour, doors and hallways leading further into the large H-shaped manor.
"Your coat, sir." The house elf popped away with Percy's overcoat and reappeared two seconds later without the garment.
"Follow me, sir." The house elf who Percy guessed was female from her tone of voice led him through the hall to the connecting parlour and directed him towards the furniture seating surrounding a large glass coffee table. "Please take a seat, sir. I shall inform my Lord that you have arrived."
Occupying one of the armchairs, Percy took stock of his surroundings and relaxed minutely. Floor to ceiling windows allowed a wide view of the vast grounds surrounding the manor even as mosaics fairies, dragons, nymphs and other fantastic beasts drifted through the glass panels. Few of the nymphs and mermaids waved in his direction with a smile even a dragon belched blue flames which seemed to escape the glass into the real world.
The walls were painted a warm shade of green that resembled freshly cut grass. A large painting of a sailing ship – Percy surmised it resembled a fifteenth century merchant vessel – hung above the mantle of the fireplace and the light scones around the room resembled occamy with their wings in flight.
The thought of this meeting had both unnerved and exhilarated him for days though the pleasant atmosphere of the room did wonders for his state of mind which he guessed must have been the purpose of said decoration and style, a factor he never would have noticed if not for the Triwizard Tournament. Thanks to Crouch Senior's flouting of the rules to save his son and then being held under an imperius by said progeny, Percy had spent an entire year running the Department of International Magical Cooperation. Despite his extremely quick promotion as Personal Assistant to Crouch Senior and the rather rocky start of his diplomatic career, he had thrived due to his quick understanding of office politics and the extreme interference of certain Houses in matters of Britain's diplomatic relations with its European and ICW neighbours. The promotion to the Junior Assistant to the Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge, had only served to increase his knowledge of British politics and the traditions and rules one must follow and individual or groups one must patronise to increase one's stature – knowledge he had put to good use.
His biggest regret was that his family did not seem to understand the duties and responsibilities of an Ancient House. All of his efforts to restore the House of Weasley to a position of respect had alienated his family. His father in particular seemed to take his actions as insults and wanted Percy to return to a house mired in disrespect and swollen with self-importance. His family were fools for believing that a name did not matter. If only his father would abandon his ridiculous and incompetent curiosity of muggles…
"Ah, Mister Weasley."
Percy turned his head so fast that he felt the whiplash sharply. A second later, he noticed the source of his voice standing near the entrance of the parlour. The man appeared to be in his mid to late forties with reddish brown hair with light strands of white scattered around his scalp. Sharp blue eyes reminded Percy of a pristine lake he once visited. He was dressed in tasteful robes of fine quality with the style closer to muggle formal wear.
"Lord Greengrass." Percy stood immediately though he was quickly gestured to take his seat. "I thank you for inviting me into your home as a guest."
Tristan Greengrass smiled, a gesture Percy found to be quite disarming. "No, Mister Weasley. I was quite surprised yet honoured that you accepted my invitation." Walking over and occupying a seat on the main couch, he turned towards the young red haired youth. "I must confess I delayed announcing my arrival for I found you lost in thought."
Percy blushed. "No apologies necessary, Lord Greengrass. It is I who am sorry for not noticing your arrival."
Greengrass waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. "Quite alright, Mister Weasley. I tend to be lost in thought one too many times as well. My wife loves to make fun of my little habit." Relaxing in his seat, he asked, "I noticed you were staring at quite intensely at the sconces placed around the room."
Percy nodded with a minute shake of his head. "It was the unusual though elegant design, Lord Greengrass. I have never seen them before."
"My grandmother loved them. She believed the design would be a nice tribute to the creatures which are part." Then, with the air of a man who had seemingly forgotten an important matter, Greengrass said, "Dear me. I seem to have forgotten my manners. Kenny." He spoke aloud. "Tea and refreshments, please."
Percy watched as another house elf dressed in the same manner as the first elf appeared in the room and snapped its fingers. A silver kettle, glass cups, a cup of sugar and a rack of cupcakes of biscuits appeared on the coffee table before the elf – Kenny – gave a swift bow to Greengrass and popped away.
Greengrass gestured towards the kettle of warm tea and snacks. "Please help yourself."
Emulating Greengrass, Percy took a cup of warm tea with a cube of sugar.
A few moments of small talk passed between the men before Greengrass placed his cup on the table. "I am sure you are wondering about the reason for this social call."
Percy decided to assume his best poker face – an expression of confusion mixed with the look of an employee afraid of yet eager to please his superior. It had worked wonders with Ministry workers – especially Fudge and Umbridge – and allowed his meetings with foreign diplomats to work in his favour as they constantly underestimated him. "The thought did cross my mind."
Greengrass smiled and Percy knew the man had seen through his tactic. "As I am sure you know, the Noble and Ancient House of Greengrass is in official alliance with the Noble and Most Ancient House of Selwyn, an alliance which does provide my House some clout in the Wizengamot."
Small clout indeed… Percy frowned inwardly. That alliance had ensured no House of the Light, or Progressive, Faction would ever ally themselves with the House of Greengrass due to the fickle nature of House Selwyn. Another important, though less stated, factor was the identity of the Heir Apparent. The current Lord Selwyn, an individual going by the name Bartholomew, has led the House for over three hundred years. Rumours of his vampiric nature aside, Lord Selwyn had so far refused to name a successor to House Selwyn, an action that pushed his numerous descendants into desperate actions to gain his favour. Percy's frequent international trips during the Triwizard fiasco and the subsequent transfer to the Minister's office ensured he had ears in many places and several of them whispered rumours of murders, assassination attempts, slanderous campaigns and a whole bag of unethical to downright illegal tricks employed by the various Heir Presumptives to gain a higher footing on the ladder towards the Lordship.
Realising Greengrass was waiting for a response, Percy nodded. "I am aware of the official alliances of which the Houses of Wizarding Britain are a part of, Lord Greengrass. House Selwyn is known for its odd-" He quickly clamped his mouth before he spouted the wrong words. "I apologise if I overstepped my boundaries."
"Unnecessary, Mister Weasley." Greengrass's smile was disarming. "It is refreshing to find one who can speak their mind. I would love to hear your opinion."
Percy was not sure if he had just been appreciated or insulted. Realising this might just be a test, he composed his expression and gave a minute nod. "The normal primogenitor customs of a House ensured the firstborn would be named as the successor, the Heir Apparent. In cases where a direct successor cannot be determined, usually in the cases of an entire main branch going extinct or killed, family magics are said to determine the Lord, or Heir Apparent if the successor is not of age, from the Cadet Houses otherwise known as Branch Families or Houses. The House of Selwyn is unique in that the current Lord is known to have outlived his children and whose great-grandchildren or great-great-grandchildren now compete for the role of successor. The situation is further complicated due to the presence of over a dozen families who hold as much claim as the direct descendants of the Lord due to situations I have no knowledge of."
"There are rumours floating around that you are the Regent of House Selwyn. Personally, I find it difficult to believe as your wife, Lady Greengrass, is the granddaughter of Lord Selwyn and, forgive me, is nowhere near the top of the ladder of succession. Her status makes your claim of regency far too… tenuous."
Greengrass chuckled. "You are right on several points, Mister Weasley. Though you need to broaden the scope of your knowledge as your ignorance shines." Ignoring the indignant and embarrassed blush on Percy, he continued. "It is true that my wife, the Lady Greengrass, is the grand-daughter of Lord Selwyn and due to reasons you will not understand, I am not eligible for the post of Regent irrespective of potential Heir Apparents. However, times have changed."
A moment of silence passed before Percy saw a proud smile rise on Greengrass's lips.
"You see, my eldest daughter, Daphne, celebrated her sixteenth birthday last week."
Percy noticed a curious expression on Greengrass but it was suppressed before he could get a read.
"My wife wished to make it a grand event and I, naturally, spared no expense. It was a small gathering of close family and friends who spent an enjoyable evening together. There was even an entertaining show where two of my friends, emboldened by far too much firewhiskey, began a duel that ended with their wives torturing them for the rest of the evening." He chuckled in remembrance.
Staring at Percy with a smile that deepened, Greengrass gestured to his house. "You see, near the end of the party, Lord Batholomew Selwyn visited my home to give his great-granddaughter a gift. He named Daphne Greengrass, Heiress of House Greengrass, the Heir Apparent of House Selwyn whose right of succession now supersedes any potentials. My daughter now wears the Heir Primary ring with pride." and caution.
Percy's eyes widened and finally understood the truth behind the rumours. "You're holding the regency for your daughter." He breathed.
"Indeed I am." Greengrass smiled and his expression turned predatory. "As you well know, the House of Selwyn does have… significant sway in the Wizengamot."
Percy knew that was the understatement of the century. Lucius Malfoy held the ear of the Minister and with his son's possible claim to the Black seat, not to mention the status of House Malfoy amongst the Dark faction, made him a powerful political figure. He made the decisions for the Dark, or Traditional, faction and the rest followed.
That was the popular belief anyway.
Percy's time as the Minister's lackey had revealed a different facet of the Wizengamot. He found that the Dark faction was actually comprised of two seperate groups; the former were an amalgamation of families who were active supporters of the Dark Lord, many members of the group were active death eaters. The latter faction, generally referred to as the Dark neutrals, were people who cared for naught but themselves and the profit they would earn from the ventures they participated.
Capitalists… Percy inwardly sneered. This group was headed by the Noble and Most Ancient House of Selwyn, a formidable political entity whose stance on matters was never contested even by Lucius Malfoy who held great political power.
It was at that moment the full weight of the announcement hit Percy with the force of a Bombarda. While Tristan Greengrass held proxy for the House of Selwyn in Britain for the past thirty years as a result of his marriage to Annabelle Selwyn, his daughter's status as Heir Apparent meant Tristan Greengrass was the Regent for the entire House of Selwyn, a family whose political and economic clout stretched across Europe and Africa. House Greengrass was now one of the most powerful Houses in all of Europe.
"Congratulations, Lord Greengrass." Percy held with a fake smile. "I wish the very best of greetings for your daughter and Heiress, Daphne Annabelle Greengrass and I hope she continues to achieve greatness." His smile turned into a frown of confusion. "However, I'm yet to understand the cause of this… social call."
Greengrass chuckled. "You see, Mister Weasley, I care for neither the Pureblood Movement nor those who oppose them. While war generates excellent profits if one understands the right ventures to invest in, I understand what we face is nothing but a slow attrition of our culture, economy and nation. Such a situation does not generate any goodwill or profit for my House."
Percy nodded, trying to gauge the man.
Greengrass changed his track. "I am also very fond of patterns, Mister Weasley. Absolutely fascinated by them. I consider myself, all modesty aside, a savant of pattern recognition and deduction. The best patterns are observed when you notice people who break their routines and step out of their moulds."
Percy noticed the man pause for a moment before his voice took a nonchalance he knew was fake.
"For instance, there was an individual who was a model student during his days at school. Trusted by his teachers to be a stern disciplinarian and caretaker, he made prefect and later, Head Boy. Upon graduating, he received a letter of recommendation from Albus Dumbledore himself and, through a series of unexpected events, quickly rose through the ranks until he became the closest aide to the Minister beside the Undersecretary herself."
Percy stayed silent.
"During his period of employment with the Ministry, the individual had several discrete rendezvous with Albus Dumbledore while working for the Department of International Magical Cooperation. However, less than a week after the end of the Triwizard tournament, said individual developed a public Anti-Dumbledore stance. Coincidentally, after another week had passed, he was offered the position of Junior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic. That is interesting progression of events. Would you agree, Mr. Weasley?"
Percy's knuckles turned white from the balling of his fists.
Greengrass sent him a winning smile. "As I admitted, I am extremely fascinated by curious patterns, and this individual had broken the mould he lived in which, naturally, drew my eye. So, I went sniffing around. Did I mention my animagus form is a canine?" He cracked up laughing.
"I'm sure you did not, Lord Greengrass." Percy replied, maintaining a neutral façade even as his fists whitened in a tight grip.
"I wished to why an individual who was purported to be a model student and a dutiful son would turn around and denounce his entire family and publicly take a stance against the very headmaster who provided him with a glowing recommendation while discretely passing information to said man right under the noses of the Minister and his Undersecretary, people who are not known for being merciful to traitors."
"My obsession with patterns – patterns the individual had broken in a brazen manner – drove me to find the truth. And what a truth it was."
Percy stiffened as Greengrass smiled in a manner reminiscent of a predator cornering its prey. He had seen that look plenty of times to recognise it. It was the same look that bint Dolores had every time she succeeded in her petty attempts at revenge against some unsuspecting citizen or Ministry employee.
"Few years ago – Three to be exact – the individual's school was under a cloud of danger. Rumours of monsters and secret chambers and a child, a twelve-year-old boy, who could speak the language of serpents ran rampant. Students were terrified out of their wits and began to turn their hatred on the child who merely had a gift he may or may not have received from a man who has been dead for nearly a millennium. Near the end of the year, an eleven-year-old haired girl in her first year was abducted and taken into the chamber everyone considered a myth. The child the student body had targeted in their irrational fear and who received no help from the staff found the chamber, killed the basilisk and saved the girl. Sounds like one a fairy tale, does it not? A lone hero shunned by the world and still does the right thing."
"I would not know, Lord Greengrass." Percy nearly snapped. "I do not read such fanciful tales. I fear they lead one to maintain an optimistic view of the world."
"True." Greengrass agreed easily. "Back to the story. The child saved the girl not for profit but for the simple fact that the girl was the sister of his oldest friend. Whether the boy was ignorant or simply do not care enough to notice, he had obtained a life debt from the girl and her family. Strangely, none of the family members ever made any overtures that would have paid the life debt nor did they seem to acknowledge one existed. None, save one."
Greengrass leaned into the couch and stretched his arms in a relaxed pose. "People consider Albus Dumbledore to be a man far too old and senile and forgiving to ever play games in the shadows. They consider him an old codger who should have keeled over and died a long time ago. What everyone, including the great Houses of Britain," He rolled his eyes, "forget is that Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore is the protégé of Nicholas Flamel and the man who brought Gellert Gindelwald's reign to an end. The Battle-Transfiguration Master our Ministry called a liar and a fraud for the past year was the same man You-Know-Who feared hesitated to face on the field of battle. The most important point in the information I found on Albus Dumbledore is he is insanely protective of the Boy-Who-Lived."
"Dumbledore spent a great deal of political capital and sacrificed several of his friendships in the Ministry and the ICW to try and stop the Triwizard Tournament. Knowing he was destined to fail, he decided to place a spy in an optimal position of power to ensure he would know the details of the Tournament in advance. The individual I have been mentioning for the past half hour gained his recommendation from Dumbledore and in return, he would provide the headmaster with all the information regarding the Tournament. Once the Triwizard fiasco ended with the death of a student and the return of You-Know-Who, Dumbledore and the Boy-Who-Lived became the targets of a slanderous campaign led by the Ministry. The individual gained the eye of the Minister after he turned his back on his beloved family and the headmaster who gave him the recommendation. Still, he continued to feed information to Dumbledore discreetly."
"You see, Mister Weasley, the actions confused me until I realised the young damsel in distress rescued by the Boy-Who-Lived was also the youngest sister of the individual. His stint at the Ministry gave me the final clue I needed." Greengrass crossed his arms over his chest. "Life debts are very old magic. Their existence has been known to magi since before Merlin transmuted the ley lines to invent apparition and portkey travel. Any House worth their blood see the honouring of life debts as a mark of great respect and pride. Tradition demands it and not even Houses of the darkest alignment ignore them. Only fools who are ignorant of the basic tenets of magic or are simply insane fail to acknowledge and fulfil them, namely the family whose daughter was saved. But the individual I speak of was singular within his family. I believe he acknowledged the life debt to Albus Dumbledore who was the Boy-Who-Lived's guardian and took every single measure to repay it. From all the reports I received, I understood the individual wished to restore the name of his House to a position of respect in Wizarding Britain, and fulfilling a life debt was a significant move in that direction for he was respecting our traditions."
Percy gritted his teeth so hard he swore several of them cracked.
"I admit, Mr. Weasley, my fascination with patterns drove me to uncover the truth. However, several pieces of the puzzle I presented to you have been mere assumptions. I do not like assumptions. They cause the wisest of us to fall. I called on you to clarify several points in the story I have just presented. So, Mister Weasley, did I make any mistakes?"
Percy suppressed a growl at the arrogance leaking through the man's tone. The man knew he was correct and was daring him to speak a lie. "Why are you doing this?"
Greengrass wore a confused frown. "I am not doing anything, Mister Weasley. Although, I admit I was possessed by an idea to share the information with… individuals of a particular disposition but I realised such an action would be detrimental to the health of those closest to you and it has been a long time since a matter of interest caught my eye.
"That sounds remarkably like blackmail." Percy countered.
"Thank you for the compliment, Mr. Weasley."
Percy weighed his chances. There was nothing he could do at the moment. With Albus Dumbledore dead, he was fair game to the sharks, and it seemed like he had attracted the attention of the most ruthless.
He took a deep breath and braced himself. "Harry Potter saved my sister's life from the Chamber of Secrets, in early 1993. As a scion of the Ancient House of Weasley, I felt… motivated to acknowledge the debt to the last scion of the Ancient House of Potter though I may as well call it the Most Ancient House of Peverell after Harry took up the Lordship. What I find strange is that none of the documents relating to Harry Peverell, previously Potter, call him a Lord. Even the documents submitted by the goblins call him Mister Harry Peverell. It's like none wish to acknowledge his status as the Lord of a Most Ancient House."
Greengrass stayed silent.
Percy coughed. "Forgive me for digressing. In my seventh year, Albus Dumbledore, former magical guardian of Harry Peverell, offered me a proposal. He would give me a letter of recommendation that would allow me to obtain a high ranking position in the Department of International Magical Cooperation, as the personal secretary of his old friend Bartemious Crouch Senior. In return, I would have to supply him with information he requested from time to time."
"What kind of information?" Greengrass prodded sharply.
Percy hesitated. "I really couldn't say."
"Noted." Greengrass frowned. "Please continue."
Percy sighed. "After the Dark Lord returned, Professor Dumbledore feared that Minister Fudge would not be… amenable to his suggestions, and, with the presence of Malfoy and his ilk, turn antagonistic."
"Which he did." Greengrass added.
"He advised me…" Percy looked away, feeling extremely uncomfortable. "to get into a public… brawl with my own family. As they were fierce supporters of Dumbledore, I would be brought to Fudge's attention as the son who put his loyalty to the Ministry first. It worked in our favour, and Minister Fudge took appointed me as his Junior Undersecretary."
"Interesting, very interesting." Greengrass muttered, drumming his fingers over the arm-rest of the couch. "It is fascinating though that Dumbledore allowed that pompous arse to parade around like an overgrown hen when he had a man inside Fudge's camp."
"I do not like your insinuations, Lord Greengrass." Percy spoke with a stern voice. "The information Dumbledore requested of me was never directly related to the British Ministry."
Percy did not comment.
Greengrass waited for a moment. When he did not receive any further response, he said, "Albus Dumbledore is dead. Minister Fudge is all but out the door if even he likes to pretend he still has power especially after he issued his last executive order to release several prisoners of Azkaban on account of lack of evidence. The DMLE is none too happy with the Minister's office at the moment and your relation with House Weasley or Dumbledore's friends are beyond broken due to the secretive nature of your work with the headmaster."
"Thank you for enlightening me on my situation, Lord Greengrass. Please, give share your talent of stating the obvious." Percy ground out, cursing himself for his lack of composure.
"I admit… I'm interested as to what you are going to do now." Greengrass asked, ignoring Percy's outburst.
Jumping off a cliff seems like a reasonable option… Percy thought.
Percy sighed. "What do you want from me, Lord Greengrass?"
Greengrass sent him a winning smile. "I would like to hire you."
"… Hire me?" Percy replied weakly.
"Yes," Greengrass nodded, taking a sip of his tea. "The formality of hiring a new Minister for Magic is all that keeps Fudge in office. The Dark faction is supporting Pius Thicknesse as the next Ministerial candidate."
"He's a Dark Lord Sympathizer and holds proxy for the House of Dolohov." Percy replied automatically, finally beginning to realize the true significance of the meeting. "He transferred fifty-two thousand galleons to Minister Fudge's election fund last month, in return for… personal favours."
Greengrass beamed. "This is why I feel so fascinated by young individuals like you." He paused for a moment. "I understand Amelia Bones is going to nominate herself for Minister."
"She has some of the best chance of obtaining the Minister's seat." Percy mumbled. "Egalitarian. Head of DMLE, a war veteran and considered incorruptible by many yet it known to be flexible. She's the Regent of the Ancient House of Bones, a member of the Neutral faction."
"A fair estimation." Greengrass validated.
"The Light caucus support her. She is close to Augusta Longbottom, a powerful political heavyweight. With the Dark Lord back, the chances of an Auror rising to Minister rising are very good."
"Indeed. I find that fact to be more than mildly annoying."
Percy gaped in shock. "You want to become the next Minister of Magic!"
"Mr. Weasley," Greengras pursed his lips in disappointment. "I'm afraid you've only begun to scratch the surface of my ambitions."
"But… but… then what am I doing here?" Percy stammered. It was occurring to him that he was beginning to bite off more than he could chew.
"As I mentioned… I have a job offer for you. I know that you have access to the information Fudge has collected over these years. Please do not insult my intelligence by spluttering denials like a fool." Greengrass added the last statement in afterthought.
"You wish to have all that information?" Percy questioned.
Greengrass laughed. "Of course not, Mister Weasley. The House of Greengrass owns a multitude of businesses both at home and abroad. That does not include the assets of the House of Selwyn that extends all over Magical and mundane Europe and Africa. I do not have the time to keep track of such trivia."
"You can keep that information to yourself and provide me with the higher order information I need when you are called upon. When I am Minister, you shall obtain the post of Undersecretary and continue to do as you have always done. I shall even grant you and your family protection from the Dark Lord. In return, you will arrange a meeting with Harry Peverell."
Percy frowned. "I believe a simple letter to Harry would have sufficed, Lord Greengrass. Blackmail is overkill for such a trivial matter."
Tristan laughed. "Your sense of humour needs work, Mister Weasley. I do not want the Boy-Who-Lived meeting me as a random stranger. I need a situation in which Harry Peverell will agree to support my candidature, especially since I will be recommended by a young man who sacrificed his closest relations with his family to help Albus Dumbledore fight against the Ministry and You-Know-Who. I am sure you can engineer such a situation."
Percy could see the wheels turning in his mind. With the return of the Dark Lord, Harry Pott- Peverell was being hailed as the Chosen One, or another new moniker the Prophet was spouting these days. Harry's support would go a long way, especially when the Selwyn name is involved. Although there was the matter of House Black…
"What about the House of Malfoy? For years, Lucius Malfoy was unable to claim the Heir ring due to the presence of Sirius Black. With the death of the man, Lord Malfoy is anticipating his son, Draco, shall become the Heir Primary of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. The alliances the House commands would go a long way in combating the influence of House Greengrass and House Selwyn."
"Let me explain your mistake, Mister Weasley." Greengrass interrupted. "I have reason to believe that the Lordship of House Black will not fall to Draco Lucius Malfoy, but to Harry James Peverell."
Percy was confused. "You must be mistaken. While Harry Peverell is eligible to be Heir Black, he would be Heir Secondary. Draco Malfoy, through his mother Narcissa Malfoy, has the greater right to the Black Lordship."
"Draco Malfoy will not be eligible, Mister Weasley." Greengrass spoke with confidence. "That I can assure you of. Since we both know Harry Potter will be the next Lord Black, am I right in believing you are joining me in my endeavour?"
Percy gaped at the sheer confidence displayed by the man. How could Lord Greengrass state the inheritance of House Black considering the last union between Houses Black and Greengrass was over four centuries? He was wrong in his assumption that Harry would be Heir Primary of the House of Black. He had studied the lineage of House Black when he learned his great-grandmother was a Black. He had traced the line of succession plenty of times and knew, knew Draco Malfoy would be the next Lord Black.
There was no possible way for Harry to obtain the Black Lordship, not unless Draco Malfoy either gave up his claim – fat chance of that happening – or something drastic needed to occur-
Percy's mind fell into a serene calm as his inner slytherin came to the fore. A calculative smile rose on his lips and he extended his hand towards Greengrass for a handshake of agreement. "Please, call me Percy."
In the early twelfth century, the Alexandrian Archives had funded an expedition to the south of the Nile, based on a confidential report about the hidden remains of the once-destroyed mythical library of ancient Alexandria. Sagittarius Black I had led the team, and after over three years of trial and error, they had finally figured out the location of the hidden treasure-trove of ancient knowledge. Unknown to the rest of his team, and bypassing the stringent oaths and protocols in a manner worthy of the best of Slytherins, Sagittarius had been able to duplicate a significant amount of said tomes and manuscripts, a treasure that after decades of continuous shifts and fake trails, had finally ended up in an old fortress that was once used by the Scandinavian magi of old. Arcturus Black II had turned the nigh impenetrable fortress into what later came to be known as the Black Ancestral Manor. It was only in early 1800's during the Lordship of Phineas Nigellus Black, upon acquiring Headmaster status at Hogwarts that a new Black Family Townhouse was built in central London. The fact that there were two ley-lines crisscrossing each other made Number 12 Grimmauld Place an ideal location, despite the complete muggle neighbourhood all around. That was how the hidden archives of the mythical library of Alexandria, coupled with additions and family magic created and discovered by the Black line over the centuries, amalgamated together to create the highly sought-after Black library.
The truth about less-than-spectacular origins of the Black library was something that was passed down from one Lord to another, in the form of a Fidelius secret preserved over the centuries. Even as it was, access to the library was something that was limited only to Purebloods of the Black line, which was the reason that even Lord Voldemort hadn't managed to gain access to it back then; a security measure that was unintentionally broken down by Sirius Black in early 1994, when he allowed Albus Dumbledore access to his family library and then later to Hermione Granger in 1995. That was how Hermione Granger found herself perusing a tome from the Alexandrian treasure, sometime translated during early 1500's.
"Find anything interesting, Hermione?"
Hermione looked up from the tome she was perusing to find Fleur leaning on the jamb of the library door. She had yet to receive a proper answer as to why Fleur spent as little time in the library as possible considering the amount of research the girl tended to perform for her project.
"I found one of those translated texts again." Hermione bit her lip, perusing the handwritten tome with extreme reverence. The book must have been worth a fortune. "This time it's a bunch of loose parchments bundled together. Looks like only half of it is translated though. Found some runes I've never learned before though the book is mostly a list of arithmantic equations dealing with… blood. Yes, I've got a couple of pages but I've never even seen these geometric sequences before. Professor Vector, my Arithmancy professor, told us Non-linear regressions as applied to ward schema was a budding concept but this text appears to have advanced schemes and none of them are in my books."
"Show it to me." Fleur walked forward and quickly extended her hand to snatch the tome from Hermione but paused just before she touched it. She drew her wand and cast over a dozen charms before she was satisfied and grabbed the tome from a frazzled Hermione.
"You Know," Hermione started with a frown, "I was holding the book. If I could touch them, I'm sure others could too. You didn't need to cast those detection charms."
Fleur occupied the empty chair beside the Hogwarts student and began to peruse and flip through the pages rapidly. "If you think that a book is perfectly harmless after a paltry charm or two, you will not make it as an Artificer."
Hermione was miffed. "I was reading that."
Fleur ignored the girl in favour of perusing the tome.
"Fleur!" Hermione exclaimed. "I helped you find the book. Least you could is tell me that it's for."
"I wi-" Fleur drew in a sharp breath at the information present on the pages. "Merde!"
"What is it? Did you find something?" Hermione tried to look over Fleur's shoulder. She scanned her memory of the book, wondering what it could have possible contained to elicite such a sharp reaction.
"It is just as you said. This is a translated text." Fleur quickly flipped a few pages and turned the tome towards Hermione and pointed to the date on the corner with a manicured finger. "Look at the date. It precedes the fourteenth century. That means the original texts must be far older. Hermione, do you have any idea of the value this tome holds? Gringotts would kill to possess this."
"This…. This is exactly what I need to progress in my project." Fleur gushed. "While the material does seem to focus exclusively on blood wards, I can adapt the arithmancy into-"
"Take a breath, Fleur." Hermione giggled at her own statement, remembering the many times where Ron and Harry had told her same words in the exact tone of voice.
Fleur mock scowled but shivered as she felt the familiar oppressive feeling of the library wards around her. "Hermione do you not feel that?"
"Huh?" Hermione returned eloquently.
"Never mind." Fleur gestured dismissively. "Let's take the book back to my room."
"Why?" Hermione near whined. "We can always find more reference material right here."
"The atmosphere's better." Fleur tucked the book in her arms and stood up. "If you want me to keep my promise to you, I suggest you come with me."
Hermione scowled fiercely but at the reminder of their promise, she stood and followed Fleur as she stepped out of the library. "You better teach me those wards."
Fleur flipped her ponytail to her back. "I promised I would."
"Fleur, did you see Harry since you arrived?" Hermione asked after a few seconds of companionable silence as they walked up the stairs to the second floor.
"He is stuck inside his roost." Fleur muttered, her fingers tightening around the book.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "You still haven't forgiven him?"
Fleur huffed. "It is not my fault Harry Potter is an imbecile to refuse help when it is offered. I graciously understood his mistake with the letters my sister and I sent him. I offered to help him because of both the life debt owed by my House and for saving my sister when I could not." Her lips thinned at the memory of her blabbering like a damnsel instead of jumping back in the water immediately. "Does he have any idea of the disrespect he displayed by refusing my help!?"
Hermione bit her lip to prevent any words. From what she read of them, Veela were, by nature, prone to extreme displays of emotion and Harry – the fool he was – had managed to thoroughly anger the one veela who lived less than three doors away. Fleur had explained the meeting in great detail to her and only the fact that Harry seemed to disappear for long stretches of time saved him from a severe tongue lashing from both herself and Fleur.
"Huh, what?" Hermione turned to stare at Fleur as the veela's voice broke her out of her thoughts.
Fleur's scowl darkly. "You weren't even listening, were you?"
Hermione raised her hands in surrender with an apologetic smile. She had developed a tentative friendship with the older girl over their shared love of charms and a proclivity to learn everything they could get their hands on. To Hermione, it was a breath of fresh air to have someone she could talk to on her intellectual level outside Hogwarts. "I told you. Harry's always been that way. It's who he is."
"Survivor's guilt. You had a name for it, did you not?" Fleur spoke softly. Hermione thought she could detect a twinge of sympathy. "Harry's 'Saving-People-thing'."
"I am not sure why you're getting your knickers in a bunch over this." Hermione smiled in mischief, immediately putting Fleur on her guard. Just before she could open her mouth, a 'pop' had them spinning around – Fleur was faster – to find a house elf dressed in a neat skirt standing before them.
"Lizzy." Fleur felt apprehension at the grim look on her house elf. "Qu-est-ce qui ne va pas?" ("What's wrong?")
Lizzy blubbered out the words. "Garçon aux cheveux rouge blesse prés de floo. Harry Potter et Dobby sont avec lui." (Red haired boy is injured near floo. Harry Potter and Dobby are with him.)
Hermione was already running after the first sentence had left Lizzy's lips. Fleur ran through a string of curses as she ran after the bushy haired girl, tome still in hand.
Fifteen seconds later, both girls made it into the parlour to find Harry kneeling by the fireplace with Dobby standing by his side.
Ron lay on the floor with a large gash visible on his chest and left arm. He was wheezing hard even as Harry was running his wand in quick jerky motions across her injuries.
"Ron, stop talking." Harry shouted at his friend even as he cast every healing spell he knew to stem the blood flow before his friend died from blood loss.
"Ron!" Hermione had immediately run forward to take a place beside Harry. Gripping Ron's left arm with her left hand, she drew her wand in haste and began casting the few spells she knew to knit flesh.
"Imbéciles." Fleur cursed. "Harry, Hermione. Move out of the way."
Both teens turned to glare at the veela but her firm tone no-nonsense tone of voice caused them both to quickly follow her instructions.
Taking a quick glance of Ron's slowly paling complexion, Fleur cast a set of charms that immediately slowed down the amount of blood flowing leaking from the wounds and seemed to put the ginger haired teen to sleep. Turning to Dobby, she spoke quickly. "When you take him to the hospital, tell the healers there are two charms on him. A Blood-clotter and a medical stasis. They will know what to do."
While the two teens were stunned at the words, Harry recovered faster and turned to yell at Dobby only for the house elf to grab Ron and quickly pop away.
Eyes wet from unshed tears, Hermione turned towards Fleur. "Will he be alright?"
Fleur took a deep breath to recover from the rush of adrenaline. "Once the healers get their hands on Ron, he will be fine. Harry here," She gestured to the emerald eyed teen who appeared to be wearing a blank mask. "was stitching the wounds extremely well. Good job, Harry."
Noticing the lack of response, Hermione and Fleur turned to Harry and found him sitting there, eyelids blinking in what appeared to be shock.
"Harry!" Hermione screamed at the teen to get his attention.
Harry jolted from the volume and turned towards Hermione before his eyes widened. "Fred and George's shop is under attack! We need to help them."
"What!?" Hermione screeched.
"They can't hold on too long." Harry stood up, went to the floo and prepared to throw in a fistful of floo powder when he realised he did not know the address of the shop. "Damn it! I should have asked for the address."
Fleur spoke up. "Let's just head to the Leaky Cauldron. Its eight o'clock. There will not be any foot traffic as all of the shops in Diagon Alley would have closed before sunset."
Following Fleur's instructions, Harry, Elder Wand in hand, immediately stood in the fireplace and threw down floo powder with a shout, "The Leaky Cauldron." and disappeared in a flash of green flames.
Fleur and Hermione quickly followed suit.
Harry, Hermione and Fleur stumbled out of the wall that separated The Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley to find a street so deserted and quiet that for a moment, Harry and Hermione wondered if they arrived in the wrong street.
"What happened here?" Hermione wondered aloud as Harry began casting wide area detection charms.
Fleur stood in a modified dueler's stance as she scanned the buildings and the surrounding rooftops. "After Dumbledore died, no shopkeeper is keeping their doors open beyond five o'clock. They don't even stay in the apartments above their shops either. Mister Ollivander has been following the same measures."
Harry pointed to a building located right at the intersection of a fork where Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes was located. "I picked up a rather powerful and highly modified Notice-me-not and silencing wards around the place and I'm counting eighteen people in the area besides those living above the shops around us."
Hermione gripped her wand so tight pain lanced up her arm.
Fleur took a quick glance at the unique wand Harry held and cast her detection charms on the shop as well. "Harry's right. Looks like a set of Notice-me-not, silencing and illusion wards that ensure no one peeks in until their work is done." She refrained from complimenting on the work as it would serve to anger the two friends beside her.
"Can you do a disillusionment charm?" Harry asked Fleur who nodded instantly and cast the charm on herself.
Harry drew his invisibility cloak from his pocket and draped it over Hermione before casting a disillusionment charm on himself. Hermione opened her mouth to question how Harry had managed to learn such an advanced charm, but the reality of the situation forced her to reconsider.
"Follow me." Harry muttered with enough volume, as he and Fleur moved ahead, with Hermione following as quickly as she could, noticing the invisibility cloak seemed to stick to her like a second skin.
As the trio approached the Weasley's shop, a light pressure began to be exerted on their minds with a voice whispering that they needed to walk back in the direction they came from. Fleur shook off the feeling with some difficulty while Harry ignored it. Hermione nearly stopped before she felt Harry's hand grip her shoulder. She was shocked that Harry could locate her when she was wearing his invisibility cloak but chose to pepper him with questions later.
Stopping at the edge of the ward line, Harry whispered, "As soon as we pass this line, they will be alerted. Start casting and don't stop."
Fleur wanted to hit her head against the nearest wall. "Harry, there are eighteen people out there who could be death eaters. Even if we start casting simultaneously and rapidly, we are still heavily outnumbered."
"We don't have the time to keep thinking." Harry's tone was roaring with anger. "Let's move."
The trio – Fleur cursing under her breath - walked past the ward line and froze at the assault on their senses.
Their backs facing the trio, a dozen individuals clad in black robes and silver masks were facing the Weasley edifice and casting all kinds of destructive curses towards the construct of brick and mortar. Flames of pure magic were licking the still standing pieces of the building even as the bricks were transfigured into animals that assaulted the inside of the building. Taunts and scream of pain from within the building indicated the presence of death eaters and the twins.
Harry absorbed the information in a split second before a red haze filled with vision. Whipping his wand in a straight jab that quickly dispelled his disillusionment, his wand sang in joy as he snarled, "Reducto!"
When cast successfully, a Reducto – the basic version of a Confringo – was capable of light to moderate damage depending on the target. Depending on the power of the caster, the curse was capable of pushing an opponent anywhere from three to eight feet and torn internal organs.
The curse that rushed out of the Elder Wand was a bright white streak of light that struck a death eater above the hip. A split second later, his compatriots and the ground around him was covered in shredded skin, organs and bones as the everything above the hip of the target was no longer present.
"Kill them!" One of the grunts, who had managed to overcome the state of shock of seeing one of his compatriots explore, roared in rage.
Instantly, all the remaining death eaters waved their wands and yelled out exploding curses, bombarding hexes and cutting curses.
Fleur had dropped her disillusionment charm as she sent a quick succession of fireballs from her wand as she dodged and shielded against the curses heading towards her.
Still under her cloak, Hermione stuck out her wand tip from beneath the cloak and began casting a series of jinxes and hexes designed to soften the death eaters for Harry and Fleur to quickly take them down.
Casting a Protego to absorb the curses, Harry ducked and rolled to the side as rapid cast cutting curses and wide area exploding hexes that were far too powerful for his opponents to shield as some learnt to their dismay and immense pain. He ducked a pair of cutters and launched a series of quick stunners before he noticed the familiar green of the killing curses heading towards him. He had quickly ducked only to find the curse stopped by a conjured piece of stone that disintegrated from the impact.
Harry turned in surprise towards Fleur who continued to rapid cast curses, charms and hexes in a series of blindingly fast spell chains that kept the death eaters on their heels. He could see the gash across her left knee and realised that her left arm was broken judging by the way she held it close to her chest.
Enraged by the injuries, Harry – ignoring the bone breaker that passed an inch away from his face - called on his reserves and pumped in even more power into his spells causing the seven remaining death eaters to dodge as their shields were unable to withstand the assault.
Hermione, finding it increasingly difficult to keep the cloak on and fire spells, dropped the cloak as she fired two cutting hexes in quick succession at the two death eaters right in front of her and crouched to avoid the ribbon cutter that nearly took her head off. The bright pink colour of the spell reminded her of the curse Antonin Dolohov struck her with and the distraction cost her.
One of the masked grunts – enraged by the audacity of a boy defending against him – pointed his wand at Hermione and yelled, "Crucio."
It proved to be the last thing he ever did.
Watching his best friend under the Cruciatus sent Harry reeling back to his time in the Department of Mysteries. The Elder Wand feeding his rage and suppressing his occlumentic dampeners, Harry whipped his wand in a movement he had only practiced once before, ignoring the curses flying around him, emerald eyes glowing with power, and made a series of twirls, curves and jabs before pointing the legendary wand at the caster of Cruciatus and whispered with the softest of voices. "Hastam tenebrarum."
The spells of every single witch and wizard froze in mid air before they were drawn to the tip of the Elder Wand as it glowed in Eldritch energy. A second after they were absorbed, Fleur whipped her head to stare at Harry in shock. Before she could open her lips, the Elder Wand, glowing in a crackle of energy, sent a bolt of the blackest night towards the targeted death eater.
The moment the bolt struck the death eater, a crackle of black energy jumped to the next death eater and the next. It continued its journey until it connected all seven death eaters present on the street. In a move that surprised Fleur, the spell jumped inside the shop and she knew, mind growing numb with shock and horror, that the spell had targeted every single death eater in the area. Once connected through ribbons of pure force, the death eaters tried to run only for them to succumb to madness and a boiling, rushing, piercing, cutting pain before they imploded with such force that Fleur, Hermione and Harry were sent flying for thirty feet before they, quite painfully, landed on their arses.
The walls on the ground floor of the shop blew outwards with all the force of twenty bombarda curses as shelves, glass, items of unknown purpose, paper, wood and a whole host of materials along with a mass of blood, flesh and bone.
Fleur regained her breath faster than the others due to the cushioning charm she had cast on herself before the battle began and was extremely thankful she did so when she saw Harry and Hermione were both unconscious.
Casting the spell equivalent of a pepper-up potion on herself, Fleur stood up on shaky legs and slowly walked over to her friends even as she cast a medical stasis charm on both to prevent their injuries from exacerbating quickly. A moment later, she stopped to shake the spots her eyes were suddenly swimming in. She took another step and collapsed as she felt her stasis charms and the pepper-up spell she cast on herself fade far too quickly for it to be natural.
Before she could question the strange event, Fleur found herself quickly turned around to face a heart shaped face of violet eyes and green hair, filled with fear and calm. The dichotomy made her giggle even as the new arrival's lips moved and yet no sound reached her ears. Before she could ask why the new arrival was moving her lips silently, the new arrival sent a pulse of magic through Fleur and her conscious faded to black.
WILBERT CROAKER – JOHN BARROWMAN
TRISTAN GREENGRASS – COLIN FIRTH