Harry Potter had known that the rescue mission was a likely trap. Sirius Black had not been seen in the public sphere for months, at that point, and so no one would know that he had cut his black hair into a short, almost muggle style. His godson had suggested the change, arguing that it was one less thing to worry about in a fight. The fact that Harry Potter kept his hair in the same short style merely hammered the argument home.

So when Harry began to see visions of his long-haired godfather being tortured, he knew what Voldemort was trying to accomplish - Sirius was to be the lure that drew the boy-who-lived into the Ministry.

If there are death eaters at the Ministry, reasoned Harry, then that's where I need to be. With Madam Umbridge's rather abrupt resignation at knifepoint earlier that evening, the list of Harry's enemies in the castle was a small one. It was time for his focus to shift.

He was in his dorm room, putting on his dragonhide boots and checking the rest of his kit, when Ron and Neville found him. To his surprise, they were already wearing their basilisk-skin coats. Harry looked up at them, and they looked back at him - and in that moment, Harry had known that those two boys…. No, those two men, would never let him walk into the line of fire alone.

Harry stood, and Neville checked him over. Holly wand at his wrist, Cherry wand on his thigh. Throwing knives, Combat knife, baton, expanded bag, first aid kit, potions, darkness powder. Harry was even carrying a bottle of the phosphorus-based potion that Hermione had called a 'Pocket Lumos,' and which functioned much like a muggle flashbang grenade when thrown. With a nod, Neville pronounced him ready.

The three strode into the common room, and found Hermione and Ginny waiting for them. Each wore the basilisk-skin coats that Harry had had made for them, matching those worn by the boys. Only Ginny had not objected at the time; she figured (correctly) that she was owed part of that basilisk, seeing how it was part of the darkest year of her life.

Harry checked the girls over, just as Neville had looked over his kit. They were probably more prepared than he was, but you never went into combat without checking your gear - and none of them had any notion that this trip would not involve combat. But this is what they had trained for, this small group. Today was where all those long hours of work in the Room of Requirement and the Forbidden Forest would pay off.

Today, Harry Potter went to war.


The quickest way to the Ministry would be via Floo. None of the six could apparate, just yet, though Harry had been practicing in secret. Voldemort's plan was based on angering Harry enough to drive him into making a mistake and charging into the ministry headlong - and he might have done just that, if time was of the essence and Sirius was truly at risk.

But that wasn't the case. Sirius was safe. So, the trip to London was made on the backs of thestrals, provided through the grace of Miss Luna Lovegood, who flew in the lead. Their entrance to the ministry would be through the front door - the last place they were expected.

As they flew, Harry thought back to that summer, so long ago, when everything had changed. Oh, his training had not begun in earnest until last summer, to be certain - Colonel Ramsay would not have allowed it. No, Harry thought about the summer of his ninth year, when he met the Colonel for the first time.

"You're a little small to be cutting my grass, lad, aren't you?"

Harry looked up from the mower, surprised to see the owner of the house. The man was wearing some sort of green overalls, with the pants tucked into big black boots. On one shoulder, the man was carrying what had to be a very heavy bag, probably big enough to fit Harry.

"Um, sir, I was supposed to cut the grass while you were on vacation." The boy seemed to shrink into himself, as if expecting to be admonished roughly. Ramsay had seen the look before, and his eyes narrowed at the implications.

"As I recall," Ramsay said, trying to sound as kind and calm as he could. "I had asked the Polkiss boy to cut the grass."

Harry nodded. "You did. But Niall made his little brother Piers do it, and Piers made my cousin Dudley do it because he lost a bet, and Vernon made me do it for Dudley."

"Who's Vernon?"

"My uncle." The boy's quiet response told Ramsay all that he needed to know.

"Ah," was his reply. "Well, since you're doing the work, you get the reward." He made a show of inspecting the front yard, as if he were reviewing new recruits. Harry's eyes grew wide when the Colonel's knife appeared in his hand, causing Ramsay to chuckle. "Best to do the thing properly," he said, as he used the knife to pretend to measure the length of the grass. He nodded, standing up, and noticed that Harry seemed to relax a little at that.

"Very well done, lad. You've passed inspection, and as a reward, you get some lemonade and a sit down." Hefting his bag onto his shoulder, Ramsay started walking to the back gate. Pausing, he turned around, looking at a very confused boy. "Coming?"

Colonel Ramsay's house was his escape, that summer, for it was far enough away from Durzkaban to be a safe haven from Dudley and his mates, but close enough to make the walk to and from an easy one. Ramsay had graciously told Vernon that Harry needed some of "Her Majesty's Discipline," and that some intensive yard work would not go amiss. Vernon knew that the Colonel still worked in the Army's training command, and that he still had the voice of a drill instructor.

The boy could use the discipline, his dear uncle had said. Don't spare the rod, you hear?

The Colonel had nodded at that. Harry learned later that the nod was precisely calculated to show proper respect to a civilian while simultaneously signaling how utterly unworthy of respect this particular civilian actually was. It was a level of nuance that Harry could appreciate.

What had started out as the Colonel wanting to help one of the neighborhood boys quickly became a long-term project. Summer saw Harry learning how to exercise, and - more importantly - why. When Ramsay learned about Harry Hunting, he got very quiet, and then began referring to Dudley and his friends as "OPFOR", or opposing force. He made Harry think about ways to escape, routes to prepare, tactics to delay the slower, heavier pursuers. He told Harry that the side that prepares better will win, ninety nine times out of a hundred.

Harry liked those odds. He soaked up the lessons like a sponge.

As the weather cooled, Harry found himself stopping by Colonel Ramsay's house in the evenings to go over his homework. It was the lessons after homework was done that Harry would remember most, during that long thestral flight.

"Pretend to be weak," said Colonel Ramsay, reading from the small book on the table. "So that your enemy grows arrogant. If he is relaxed, give him no rest. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected." Ramsay tapped the book. "Do you know what all this means, Harry?"

The boy nodded. "The winner is the one who does what their enemy doesn't expect, and does it before their enemy can respond?"

The Colonel smiled. "Are you asking me or telling me?"

That got a grin from Harry as well. Never did the drill instructor voice come out between them - Ramsay was more of a professor than a drill sergeant, even when they exercised. Harry had come to know the Colonel as a student of warfare and strategy, almost more than he was a teacher of it - one of his favorite sayings was that there was always more to learn. The man's job as an occasional instructor for the Academy at Sandhurst proved that, for he spent just as much time in the Academy's library as he did in its classrooms.

"Telling you, sir," Harry said confidently.

Ramsay nodded. "Good. You'll find that most battles are won before most of the people involved even realize that there was a battle. All because one smart fellow was more prepared than the other guy." He closed the book, sliding it across the table to Harry. "Your job is to be the smart fellow, rather than the other guy.

Harry ran his hand across the title of the leather-bound book. "The Art of War," he said.


Entering the Ministry was trivial, once they arrived in London. Hermione had elbowed Harry in the ribs - hard - when he gave their reason for entry as "Extrajudicial counter-terrorism exercise."

Luna, meanwhile, had simply laughed her airy laugh. Anyone who mistook her for a weak link on the team needed only look at the throwing knives on her belt, or the potion bottles ready to be thrown, or the determined look in her eye. She had trained as hard, if not harder, than any of the six. She knew exactly how many times Lucius Malfoy had threatened her father's magazine. She knew exactly how many 'gas main explosions' there had been since the breakout at Azkaban in December.

When Arthur Weasley had been attacked in the Ministry, it had been Luna who calmed Harry down afterwards. It had been Luna and Hermione who took his anger at the blatant attack and tried to channel it into something productive.

The idea to start their own miniature DA, just the six of them, focusing on small unit tactics against death eaters? That was Ron, who wanted to make sure he would be prepared, if and when. Ginny had agreed, saying nothing - but her hard eyes were focused on Harry, who had lost himself in thought at that point.

Neville had broken the silence. "Where a Potter goes, a Longbottom follows." Harry looked up at his friend, before looking across the faces of the others.

"If we do this, we do it all the way." They nodded. "We train like the muggles do, we fight like the muggles do." They nodded. "No quarter."

Each of them nodded.

"Good." said Harry. Behind him, the Room of Requirement had created a row of wooden targets, and a table covered with small pieces of metal. Harry grinned as he picked one up - it was a perfectly balanced, gleaming surgical steel throwing knife. "Alright, let's start with these." Turning, he threw the knife downrange.

The five watched with awe as the knife buried itself in the throat of the target.

In the atrium of the Ministry, they found four death eaters waiting at the floo points, their eyes fixed on the flames. They were probably there in case some innocent worker stumbled into the office that evening, for if Harry had planned to floo in he would have done so by now.

Four well placed stunners sent the death eaters to the floor. Neville collected the wands and incinerated them, while Hermione and Ginny tied the death eaters up with a variant of the Incarcerous. Instead of ropes, the spell used razor wire - before disillusioning the bindings. The idea was to prevent the downed wizards from being freed, or - failing that - keep the rescuers busy long enough to take them down as well.

And if they struggled and cut their wrists and ankles? "Welp," Harry had said, with a shrug. He would not cut the throats of fallen enemies, however richly they deserved it, but nor would he see to their comfort.

To the group's surprise, there were no other death eaters in evidence - none hiding under cloaks or in shadows, none of the marked employees they knew had to have infiltrated the Ministry by now, no one.

Down to Level 9 they went.


When Harry returned to Privet Drive after his third year at Hogwarts, he visited Colonel Ramsay the next day. To his surprise, he found his mentor reading a copy of Hogwarts, a History.

"A man from Downing Street came by last week," Ramsay began. "He mentioned that I was being read into some sensitive projects above Top Secret."

"Oh?" asked Harry, sitting down across from the Colonel.

"Oh, indeed. It seems I had inadvertently befriended a wizard, and not just any wizard, mind, but one who had some importance to Her Majesty's government." He smiled at Harry. "Funny thing, isn't it?"

Harry looked uncomfortable. "Sir, normally I'm forbidden from telling anyone about…"

Ramsay stopped him. "Oh, they told me. No worries there." He leaned forward, extending a hand. "It's a pleasure to finally meet the real you, Mister Potter." Harry grinned as they shook hands.

Over the course of that summer, Harry told his story. His parents, their deaths, his relatives, his school. He spoke of his friends, his classes, his teachers.

He was surprised when Ramsay prompted him to speak about Quirrelmort. About the basilisk. The Dementors. His godfather.

The conversation turned to a more narrow focus. His wants, his goals, his objectives. Ramsay only grew annoyed once, when Harry said that his highest goal at the moment was to survive his fourth year.

"No army who fought just to survive ever won anything. You need to do more than survive, you need to live, perhaps even to love."

Harry had grown melancholy at that point. "The only time I really remember being loved was before my parents died. Voldemort took that from me. He took everything from me."

"That he did," agreed Ramsay. "But look, now you have a godfather on your side, you have friends, you have allies. You're not alone, Harry."

"I know," he said, smiling a bit at the thought of his friends. "But it's taken a very long time to get to this point. If I lost them, I don't know what I'd do."

Ramsay stood up to refill their tea. "I do." Harry looked up, and met the Colonel's eyes. "You'd force yourself to keep going. To do what needed doing."

"Would I?" asked Harry, unsure.

Ramsay nodded, holding Harry's gaze. "The guard dies, but never surrenders." Off harry's questioning look, Ramsay continued. "Harry, you are one of the most determined people I have ever known, and I've been training soldiers for close to thirty years, everyone from Generals down to Privates. If you are fighting for what you believe in, for the people you love, then no force in the world could stop you." Ramsay's voice grew quiet, as he spoke the words that Harry would never forget.

"They could never defeat you, not ever. All they could hope to do is kill you."


The Hall of Prophecies was far more vast than they had expected. Even with Luna's accounts of the hall from her father, who had learned of it from her late mother, they were unprepared for the sheer scope of the place.

It was Hermione who detected the ward across the doorway. It was Ginny who bypassed it. Just the presence of that ward alone proved that this was a trap, that death eaters were laying in wait somewhere nearby. Removing their early warning might buy a few minutes, or so they hoped.

The correct prophecy was easily found. The tag listed the seer, their audience, and the subjects of the prophecy. Harry saw that the question mark was crossed off, with red ink showing the true subjects of the prophecy.

S.P.T. to A.P.W.B.D. in re Dark Lord and James Potter and Harry Potter

Harry looked at the tag, considering what it might mean. Why would my father be listed? Why not my mother as well? Quickly, Harry took the orb off the shelf and placed it in his pouch.

"Incoming," said Neville, from his place near the intersection of that row and the next. Hermione's wards were good, and all six of them had trained to detect the subtle magic that came just before apparition. As Harry readied his wand, he saw another orb with 'Potter' on the tag. Without pausing, he grabbed that prophecy as well, tag and all.

A masked death eater appeared on his left, almost exactly where Harry's Reducto struck a second later. Two more death eaters met their deaths that way, as Harry's team took advantage of that split second disorientation on arrival. This enraged the remaining death eaters, which was part of why they had done it in the first place. These wizards expected six weak students, and instead found death.

Harry could hear Lucius Malfoy's voice trying to take control of the battle - a battle that he had not been expecting. Why give your enemy time to prepare? Harry could hear the Colonel's voice in his head.

Spells began to strike the shelves, sending shards of glass every which way. The six began making their way to the rear exit, covering each other with spellfire. One brave death eater tried to cut them off, and wound up with a knife in his throat. The mask fell away as the body crumpled to the floor, revealing Augustus Rookwood - an unspeakable.

That explains the wards, thought Harry. He and Neville were the last two at the doorway, the others having gone through already. With a grin, Neville pulled out the Lumos potion. Harry matched his move, and on the count of three they lobbed the potions at the approaching death eaters.

The flash of light that came under the door would have been blinding, had they waited for it.


"The Death Eaters operate on fear," the Colonel had said, probably for the fiftieth time. "In 1978, a dozen of them walked down Diagon Alley and destroyed three shopfronts, killing two and injuring seven."

Ramsay and Harry were looking over reports from the Ministry about the first war. What little information the Muggle government had was in the form of reports like this one taken by inside agents, or derived from the Prophet. To an experienced soldier, though, they were a goldmine.

"There were over three hundred people in the Alley that day," he continued. "I assume most of them were carrying wands?" Harry nodded, that was likely. "Alright, so answer me this - twelve people versus three hundred, who wins?"

Harry considered that. "The three hundred are civilians," he said.

"True," replied the Colonel. "All of whom can disintegrate a man's head with a word."

Harry had to concede the point. "Then I would say that the side more prepared to do what is necessary would win."

"Correct." Ramsay pointed to the report. "If even half of those people had stood up and fought, the twelve would have withdrawn at best, died at worst."

"So how do we fix that?" asked Harry.

"We don't." was the reply. "But for you, the lesson is this. They walked into that Alley and expected exactly what they got. Thus, they won. Your enemy will expect you to act a certain way, behave a certain way. So, don't."


The six were bruised and sore when they made it to the Death Chamber. All were on their feet and able to fight, but none were at 100%.

"Potty's going to be in so much trouble!" shouted the voice of Bellatrix Lestrange. Harry felt Neville tense up beside him, and placed a hand on his friend's arm.

"Indeed, Mister Potter, Dumbledore would be quite disappointed." came the drawling voice of Lucius Malfoy. Harry could almost hear the sneer, moreso now that the masks were off. Luna had summoned them all with a powerful Accio, not realizing that the death eaters used sticking charms to secure the masks during battle. Two junior death eaters had found themselves pulled forward, right into the last curses they would ever see.

"And after all of that running and fleeing," continued Lucius, "You still try to play the hero. The Dark Lord expected that, and look - he was right, here you are." Malfoy reached out his hand. "Give us the prophecy, or I fear you'll come to a sticky end." Another death eater - Crabbe's father, perhaps? - walked over to Malfoy, as if to guard him.

The other five students had spread out around the room, marking the five remaining death eaters. Even now, when they were outnumbered, the death eaters acted as if they had the superior numbers. Did they not realize how many of their fallen fellows would not be getting back up?

Harry's eyes met Hermione's, and she nodded. She had seen him palm a second prophecy. "Alright, Mister Malfoy," said Harry. "Please, just don't hurt us. I'll give you the orb if you promise." He made his voice sound small - no small feat in the echo-filled expanse of the Death Chamber. Slowly, he lifted the second orb. He glanced at the tag, filing the information away for later. It didn't matter now.

S.P.T. to L.E. and A.L. in re James Potter and Harry Potter

The sneer on Malfoy's face told him that the act was working - Harry was still just a kid. "Here!" Harry shouted, tossing the second prophecy above Malfoy's head.

"No!" shouted Malfoy, as he reached up for the orb. Crabbe made a try at it as well. Neither was watching Harry, nor did they see Ron. Two curses struck Crabbe, taking his left arm off at the shoulder and shattering his ribs. With all eyes on the prophecy, no one noticed him as he bled to death.

Harry summoned Malfoy's boots, causing the death eater to topple. He watched helplessly as the orb shattered on the stone. Spellfire had broken out in earnest, with curses and jinxes flying everywhere. Harry stepped forward, his wand on Malfoy. The tail end of the prophecy was fading in the noise, but Harry made out "...at the hands of the sons…" before the mist from the orb faded.

No matter. Harry took aim at Bellatrix, sending a Langlock curse her way. With a snarl, she tried to stun him. His shield was ready, but not needed - for someone else had shielded him.

"Wotcher, Harry," said Nymphadora Tonks. Beside her, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin were opening fire on the Death Eaters.

Harry's heart sank. "You know it was a trap, right?"

"We know. Voldemort is upstairs fighting the Headmaster and the others."

That got Harry's attention - Dumbledore KNEW?

"Who told you to come here, Tonks?" Harry asked, as he shot more spells at Bellatrix. Ginny was giving her a run for her money, and the mad witch was starting to look worried. Seeing Malfoy on his face didn't help matters.

"Dumbledore, who else?" she replied. That tears it, thought Harry.

Sirius was now engaging with Bella, and their duel was a fierce one. Harry saw one curse that would have sent his godfather through the veil, and shielded it. Tonks was about to move into a better position to help when Harry grabbed her elbow.

"Tonks, who else is coming down here?" Harry asked.

"Just us." She said, unconcerned. "The others have enough to deal with, it sounded like." With that, she slid around the chamber, hoping for a better angle. A year ago, even, Harry would have raged at the revelation - that Dumbledore had known not only what was happening here, but that Voldemort was involved. It doesn't matter how prepared we are, Harry thought, how dare he send children to do his job? It was one thing to sneak behind his back, but quite another to learn that he knew and approved all along.

Now, though, he had business. There would be time for anger later.

Harry felt it then, the telltale sign of an incoming apparition. Even if they were a friendly, from what Tonks had said there was no way they'd be coming this soon. So it was likely a death eater. Harry levelled his wand, and bound the wizard as soon as he appeared - the bindings were just in case it was someone from the Order. The cloaked figure fell over immediately, just in time for Luna to silence him.

Another had apparated into the room, it seemed. "Stop!" shouted Lucius Malfoy. "Stop or she dies!"

All eyes went to the blonde wizard, who had a woman by the throat with a wand at her temple. The cloaked woman was struggling fiercely. The cloak seemed to match the man he had just dropped, which might mean that they were someone else. Not Order, then, but not death eaters. Who?

"What a surprise, my dear," Lucius hissed into the woman's ear. Then he looked up at Harry. "Place your wands on the floor and walk away, and I'll release her before we get to the floo."

Harry kept his wand on the death eater, but sensed Bellatrix approaching on his right. Wordlessly, he cast an Accio at her robes, dragging the surprised witch toward him. Before she knew what was happening, Harry had her bound and silenced. His knife went to her throat, and she stilled.

Lucius sneered again. "A hostage, Potter? Would you really trade Bella for this one?"

"I don't know, Lord Malfoy, who is she? I thought she was one of yours."

That got a laugh from the death eater. "No, no, Mister Potter, this one is most definitely yours." He pulled her hood down, and revealed a red-haired witch with fair features and haunting green eyes.

He had seen those eyes before. That morning, in the mirror.

Malfoy could not contain his glee. The game had truly changed. "It looks like your brat is just as surprised as I am, Lily."


Harry's mind raced, trying to figure the angles here. Polyjuice requires something of the target. Polyjuice requires something…. "Oh, for fuck's sake, Snape, you bastard!" exclaimed Harry.

"Snape?" asked Malfoy.

Luna was tending to Neville's wounds, but looked up at that. In a sing-song voice, she spoke. "Oh, Lord Malfoy, you have no idea what you've done."

Harry's grip tightened on Bella. With a twist of his wand, he tightened her bindings, and smiled at the sound of her elbows breaking. The silencing spell did little to quell the anguish on her face. The madness was gone, now, replaced with only terror. Her husband Rodolphus, bound and silenced on the other side of the room, seemed to enjoy her suffering.

"Your pet spy kept my mother's hair for fifteen fucking years?! Only to try something this desperate? How DARE you?" Harry had kept tight control over himself during the battle, but this outrage had been a step too far. "My dead mother suddenly appears right when Voldemort sets a trap for me? Pull the other one, it's got bells on."

He did not see the look of terror on the woman's face.

"Nevertheless," said Malfoy, who was fighting the urge to back away from the angry boy in front of him.

"Harry," said Sirius, in a warning tone. He had stepped over to stand beside Ron, who was guarding a bound Gregory Goyle Senior. "Be careful," he said.

"Yes, Harry, be careful," mocked Malfoy. "We both know you will do nothing except let us go and walk away. Our master knows you, he knows exactly how your Order will retreat every time." He sneered one last time. "Walk away."

Harry glanced over at Neville, who nodded slightly. "Speed?" Neville said, chancing a nonsense word that would sound non-threatening. Harry nodded in confirmation, as little as he dared.

Malfoy saw the motion, and glared at him. "Well?" the man snarled.

Keeping his knife at Bella's throat, Harry placed his wand in his pocket. Holding his right hand open, he made eye contact with Lucius. He maintained that eye contact as he brought his now empty hand across Bellatrix Lestrange's face. Grasping her chin, he suddenly twisted her head to the side.

The Death Chamber echoed with the sickening crack of her spine. As soon as Harry struck, Neville stunned the red-haired woman. Malfoy dropped her, attempting to defend himself - while forgetting about Ginny, who stunned him from behind.

The room seemed to freeze for a moment. And then the students began shouting "Clear!"

Sirius was examining Bellatrix, who was lying still on the floor, her eyes open and unseeing. "You killed her, Harry."

"Yes I did," he replied. "My job was to get everyone out of here, and fuck the rest of them." He nodded to Neville Longbottom, who was watching the pair from across the room. "And besides, I owed a debt to House Longbottom."

Before Sirius could respond, Hermione called Harry over to the red-haired woman. The fallen witch could actually have been Lily Potter, if they made her look older than she had been at the time of her death. Even the willow wand was accurate, or seemed to be.

"She's not under polyjuice, Harry." said Hermione, worriedly. Harry stared at the woman, before looking back to Hermione.

"What, you're suggesting that she's actually my mother?" Harry asked. For the first time that night, a note of concern crept into his voice. But no, he could not dare hope. It wasn't possible.

Was it?

In the quiet of the Death Chamber, Sirius' whisper was like a cannon shot. Harry's head snapped around to look at his godfather, who was checking out that last death eater who had apparated in. The one with the same cloak as 'Lily'. Oh, no, was about the only thought Harry could muster before what Sirius had said registered.



Healers were swarming over the remains of the Ministry Atrium, tending to the wounded aurors and civilians present. The duel between Voldemort and Dumbledore had been the stuff of legend, the sort of duel one might tell their children about someday.

The finale, too, would grow in the telling. Just as Voldemort had seemed to get the upper hand on his much older opponent, a bolt of magic had struck him from the side. Every eye turned to see…. Harry Potter?

"Ahhhh," Voldemort had hissed. "The substitute."

"I've waited a long time for this," said the boy, before he struck. Voldemort laughed in his face, shielding and parrying the boy's spells. It was obvious to all who saw, however, that the boy had some power behind his magic - and that, combined with Dumbledore's renewed assault, put Voldemort at risk.

His death eaters were not coming back, he realized. They had failed him. With a hiss of anger, the Dark Lord vanished.

By the time Madam Bones had made it over to the Headmaster and his student, the elevator had begun to operate again. Amelia thought nothing of it, for her mind could not wrap itself around the identity of this boy who had saved them.

"James Potter?" she asked.

"Yes, Madam Bones," said the boy.

She eyed Dumbledore with no small measure of anger. "And now I suppose you're going to tell me that James and Lily survived?" Dumbledore had the grace to look down. That was it for Amelia. "Oh for fuck's sake Albus!"

"Funny," the three turned to see a bloodied Harry Potter walking toward them. "That was my reaction as well, Madam Bones."

"Harry, my boy, are you alright?" The Headmaster asked.

Harry nodded. "We're all fine, sir." He turned to the Director of the DMLE. "Madam Bones, there are at least seven stunned and bound death eaters in the Hall of Mysteries and the Death Chamber, one of whom is Lucius Malfoy. You also have probably twelve corpses. All of the dead bear the dark mark. We secured two additional prisoners as well."

Dumbledore's heart sank at that news. "Who are the two prisoners?"

Harry's eyes seemed to bore into Dumbledore, though his expression was carefully neutral. "They seem to be Lily and James Potter, but we all know that that can't be the case, because they died to save my life, right Headmaster?"

The boy next to Dumbledore spoke up, then. "Oi, that's my mum and dad!"

Harry turned his gaze to the boy. They were of a height, though Harry was just slightly taller - possible due to the boots he wore. They had the same hair, though different lengths. The same eyes, the same build. Unbidden, Harry's thoughts went to the prophecy - and how perhaps it hadn't been his father on it after all.

"James Potter, Junior, I presume?" Harry asked. Madam Bones heard the fatigue in his voice, and realized just how major a shock this must be. And that didn't even account for whatever took place downstairs, she thought.

"You must be Harry, then." James said. Harry thought, just for a moment, that he heard the beginnings of a Malfoy-level sneer work their way into the boy's…. No, his twin's voice. Merlin, Harry thought.

Harry chuckled, the weariness beginning to take its toll. Perhaps it was that fatigue, or just the numbness at what he had done that night, but Harry decided in that moment to lay his cards on the table.

In Parseltongue, he spoke to his brother. {"Are you alright?"} he asked.

James' eyes grew wide at the public display, but he still replied. {"Fine."} Then he paused. {"Mom and Dad?"}

Harry nodded. "They're fine, just stunned. Sirius is with them."

James nodded at that. "Well, good." He seemed to be considering his next words carefully, fighting the urge to say something. Had he looked over at Dumbledore, he would have seen the look of panic on the Headmaster's face.

"Harry," James began. "Thank you for protecting me while I trained to be the boy-who-lived." He sounded sincere, he sounded rational. But he also clearly had no idea that he had just changed everything.

Harry stared at him for a moment, then at Dumbledore. His voice was low and cold, clearly angry - but not as much as might be expected, all things considered. "You knew?"

To his credit, the Headmaster looked ashamed. But then Harry saw him square his shoulders and steel himself for the criticism. "It was for the greater good, my boy."

Harry shared a look with Madam Bones, one that she interpreted as something along the lines of Can you believe this asshole? She smiled at Harry, letting him know that they were on the same page. They would talk at length about that night, and everything that had happened, but not now.

"Right, well, we might want to hold off on that coronation, dear brother." Harry reached into his pouch, producing the prophecy orb. "Being the boy-who-lived isn't all it's cracked up to be."

James didn't know how to respond, and so didn't. Instead, he looked intently at the orb. "How can you hold it?"

"Yes, how is this possible?" asked the Headmaster, quietly, though the worry was plain in his voice. "Only the subject of a prophecy can touch it without risking madness." He looked at Harry with sadness in his eyes, as if diagnosing a case of terminal cancer. "A remarkable student you may be, but I'm afraid you're not as special as you thought you were, Harry my boy."

Later, Harry would forgive the Headmaster his unfortunate turn of phrase. In the moment, however, the temperature in the room dropped ten degrees.

Getting ahold of his anger, Harry sighed, before shaking his head at the Headmaster. "It seems that your plan is and was fatally flawed, sir." He handed over the card that came with the prophecy - the one clearly showing both Harry and James.

With a slight nod, Harry acknowledged Madam Bones. "Madam Bones, gentlemen, I'm going to go check on my team, and then I plan to sleep for about a week. After that, we'll want to have a cup of tea and a sit down, I suspect."

James looked up, his face a mask of confusion, only to see Harry walking away. Everything he knew, everything he had been told, was laid bare as a lie. Or, at least, as an untruth. Dumbledore seemed shocked as well, though, so perhaps there was hope. Mom and Dad will know what to do, thought James. To Harry, he raised his voice. "Don't you care what it says?"

Harry shot him a look over his shoulder, the floo powder still in his hand. "Of course I do, why do you think I made a copy for myself?" Then he leaned into the floo. "Saint Mungo's!" And with that, he was gone.

James looked up at the Headmaster, who seemed to be having a panic attack. Every plan, every stratagem, was now obsolete. James gave voice to what they were both thinking.

"What the hell do we do now?"

A/N: This is a meditation of sorts on DZ2's Prodigal Son challenge, wherein a Grey or Dark Harry learns that his parents survived the Halloween attack, only to go into hiding with a sibling who was the actual Boy-who-lived. They trained for years under Dumbledore's watchful eye, all while allowing Harry to be abused and mistreated at Durzkaban, and then later endangered and cast out at Hogwarts. And then, in either the Ministry or the Graveyard, they swoop in and pat Harry on the head and tell him good job, now your sibling can take over.

Suffice to say, that doesn't go over so well.

Here, I took a grey Harry who had taken the Art of War as gospel, and who had a mentor to guide him. Military!Harry is a trope rarely seen, and I wanted to take a swing at it. But take that further - if Lily and James showed up in the middle of a firefight, with a Harry on a hair trigger? It took quite a bit to keep me from having him Reducto them on sight, as he simply assumed it was a trick. This works better, I think.

So, James and Lily survived (along with a very confused Sirius). Bellatrix didn't - which highlights exactly the sort of pragmatic mission-focused Harry we're dealing with. Dumbledore, who deployed James and the Potters specifically for this moment, believed that James Jr. was the BWL. Whoops.

The challenge presumes that Harry is not actually the BWL, and thus has to preserve his place and his agency in a world where he is now superfluous. Here, I reversed that - James and Lily and James Jr. re-emerge into the world, and find themselves unnecessary. As Harry said, "Welp."

Regarding Speed: One time, Neville and Harry got to talking about hostages. That reminded Harry of a muggle film he had seen, where the man said to shoot the hostage, and well...

(No plans to continue this as such, this was mainly a plot bunny that came out of the challenge. Perhaps I'll reuse Colonel Ramsay at some point. If someone wants to adopt this scenario and run with it, feel free to PM.)

Feedback, as always, is welcome.

2nd A/N 1/24/2019: After multiple comments and messages, not to mention peer pressure from the LeadVonE Discord, I've decided to mark this as in-progress. I will be continuing the story, though do not expect frequent updates. Harry Potter, et al, and the Keystone Council will remain my main focus for the time being, but keep an eye on this space. Thank you all for your comments, the response to this story has been overwhelming.