Title: Darkly Loyal
Author: Keira Marcos
Fandom: Harry Potter
Relationship: Harry Potter/Hermione Granger/Draco Malfoy
Content Rating: NC-17
Genre: Romance, Time Travel, Fantasy, Menage, Fix It
Warnings: Violence, Explicit Sex, Dark Themes, Temporary Main Character Death, death of a pregnant character, homicide, and permanent character deaths.
Author Note: The only people who are safe from a messy permanent death are my main characters (Harry, Hermione, and Draco).
Summary: Dumbledore makes a stupid move, Witch Weekly continues to amuse Hermione, and dumb people get in the way of Harry having a proper summer break, so he kills them.
Ginny’s everlasting love for Tom Riddle was a full spread in Witch Weekly a week after her disappearance. The magazine had found all sorts of details about the boy wizard turned Dark Lord much to Harry’s amusement. However, the daily howlers Molly Weasley was sending to Dumbledore were the nothing short of epic. The second day he’d tried to avoid it, and the Howler had exploded in a vicious display of magic that had left his skin scarlet for hours. It took the third day for Harry to realize that Dobby was probably tweaking the Howlers to make them worse, but he didn’t interfere. Dobby was entitled to petty revenge as much as anyone else.
Hedwig visited him for the first time in March. She was a beautiful phoenix—white and dark blue where Fawkes was red and orange. Harry was deeply wounded to realize that their familiar bond had been destroyed by her change. Her affection for him remained the same but she was different—his lifelong companion certainly but she had a destiny stretched out in front of her that Harry no longer felt truly part of. It was heartbreaking. Since it wasn’t safe for her at Hogwarts, she’d come and gone in just thirty minutes leaving Harry behind with grief he really couldn’t speak of. He went flying with Phoebe, as that was a habit he’d developed with Hedwig’s replacement, but his heart wasn’t in it.
He landed on the Astronomy tower and stored his broom in his bracelet. Harry was sort of proud of himself that he barely even flinched when Zir appeared beside him. The Lord of Magic took a seat beside him and swung his feet a little, as he peered over the edge.
“This was always her path,” Zir said.
“Yes, of course. The creation of a phoenix cannot happen without the fire of another phoenix and my permission. She is my gift to you.”
“I don’t understand,” Harry admitted.
“Do you believe, Harry, that this is the last life you’ll walk on this world?”
“No, Death is eternal,” he whispered. “I shall walk this world in one form or another for as long as magic exists.”
“Yes, exactly,” Zir agreed. “You paid a terrible price in this life—my influence in this realm had started to wane, and Dumbledore gathered too much power in the wake of defeating Grindelwald. His task was done but the fame corrupted him, and he’s taken a dark path to keep control over what he considers his domain. I couldn’t protect your parents, and it took every ounce of power I have in this realm to keep you alive with the Dursleys. They’d have been so much worse if I hadn’t interfered as much as I could. There are forces on this world that do my bidding and forces that work against me. So, the day you turned ten I looked around and saw an owl chick—a valiant little thing with a big heart beating wildly in her breast. I reached out to her and touched her with my magic—marked her with the gift of eternity. Fawkes knew the moment she came to Hogwarts what his duty was, but Dumbledore’s control over him was vicious. I couldn’t break him free, and you weren’t old enough to act on my behalf.”
“That’s why Fawkes came back with us?”
“The phoenix is just one force on earth that works on my behalf,” Zir murmured. “They are powerful and beautiful creatures, Harry, with hardy magic but their souls can be quite fragile. Fawkes needed too much time to heal emotionally after Dumbledore was killed and he wasn’t there when Hedwig was killed the first time.”
“So his healed soul came back in time.”
“Yes, and stayed tucked away until his body burned and he was able to break free of Dumbledore’s control.”
“Does he know that Fawkes is not in his control?”
“Yes, but without the Elder Wand he cannot hope to subdue a phoenix. He doesn’t understand why Fawkes has stayed and stupidly assumes that the bird has developed some affection for him.” Zir shrugged. “He’s a very arrogant man.”
“Yes, very,” Harry agreed. “So Hedwig will come to me in my next life?”
“Yes, of course. Hedwig’s loyalty to you is as eternal as her spirit.” Zir looked out across Hogwarts. “It’s a beautiful world, Harry, but sometimes all I see is the darkness created from greed and arrogance.”
“It’s difficult—being righteous. I hate so many of them so much.”
“The hatred will fade—the revenge that burns in your souls will simmer until the three of you are safe then, and only then, can you live as you deserve to live.”
“Neither can live while the other survives,” Harry murmured. “It was never about Voldemort was it?”
“Voldemort doesn’t have the ability to destroy this world, Harry.”
“But Dumbledore does?”
“Through his influence? Yes, he could be the end of me and in turn Magic. He creates a black and white ideal that spreads out from him in terrible, distinct ways. His vision is infectious and terrible. If even half of what he wants come to pass—millions could die.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Harry asked.
“Because you had to realize it on your own.”
“Does Dumbledore know?”
Zir laughed. “No, he’d never consider himself a dark wizard no matter what he does, who he kills, or destroys with his vision of the greater good.”
“I didn’t kill him in the first timeline.”
“Of course you did,” Zir said. “You had the fortitude to force him to drink that potion in that cave. He was far too gone to survive when Snape banished him off the Astronomy tower. The Killing Curse was just an illusion, you see, for everyone who witnessed it. Dumbledore wasn’t supposed to die that night per their plan, but I replaced the poison in the cave with one that had no cure.” He swung his feet and grinned when Harry laughed. “I’ve done it again just in case he gets the bright idea to try that shite this time. I doubt he will since Snape won’t be here to save him.”
* * * *
He couldn’t say what made him allow it, but Harry strolled slowly down the hall toward his quarters while Dumbledore followed. He drew his wand as he turned down a hall with no portraits and just turned with a pretense of shock when Dumbledore silently disarmed him. The elderly wizard appeared and smirked. Harry stared at him but didn’t bother to pretend to be afraid.
“This is for your own good,” Dumbledore told him.
Harry raised an eyebrow. “I’m sure you think so.”
Dumbledore pulled a glowing globe from his robes and banished it Harry’s way. The glass ball impacted against his chest and there was a hard tug behind his navel. The portkey was rough—probably because it was forced through Hogwarts wards—and Harry landed in a dank cell. He shrugged off his robe, shrank it wandlessly, and put it in his bracelet.
“Dobby? Winky?” Neither elf appeared. He frowned.
“Calling for elves, boy?” A voice called out.
Harry frowned. “Yes.”
“Ah, they can’t hear you, but they can find you if they look.”
“Who are you?” Harry questioned.
There was a long, dry laugh. “My friends call me Gellert.”
Harry snorted. That dark bastard had portkeyed him into a cell in Nurmengard? It was perfect. He threw himself down on a dusty cot, but he barely had to wait for five minutes before Dumbledore showed up. He strolled into the ward with a bright smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye.
“You know you can’t hide me from my house elves.”
“No, but by the time they find you my work will be done. It’s for the best, Harry. You’ve made terrible decisions that I can’t allow to continue. Unfortunately, this will be quite painful for you, but you’ve given me no other choice.” Dumbledore opened the cell door.
Harry glared at him. “Do you remember when we talked about assumptions?”
“Yes, but I know you’re quite alone. The portkey was designed to work for you and only you.”
Harry stood when the Headmaster approached. The old man drew his wand, and he reached out—he grabbed the elderly wizard’s wrist, and for a second they both paused. Dumbledore tried to tug free and raised his free hand.
“Crucio.” The curse danced along Harry’s fingers and swept into Dumbledore who screamed. His wand fell from his hand as he sank to his knees in agony. Harry held the curse for nearly thirty seconds—his nails digging into Dumbledore’s skin as the man jerked in his hold. He let go of the magic, and Dumbledore took a ragged breath.
“Assumptions, Albus. You are such a goddamned fool. Did you think you could get away with it? Did you honestly think I’d allow you to gain control of me? I let you follow me. I let you disarm me. I let you send me to this ridiculous prison and the best part? The best part is that you’re going to die here. I’ll have to send someone an anonymous letter, to make sure your body gets discovered, of course. The public needs to know—the destruction of your persona must be complete.”
Dumbledore tried to pull free, but his body was still seizing.
Harry shoved the old man away, picked up the wand and stored it in his bracelet. Then he held out his hand. Dumbledore’s robes ruffled, and his holly wand tore through a pocket and slapped into his hand. He stored that in his bracelet as well. “This place is pretty secure, huh?”
“Yes,” Dumbledore said hoarsely. “You’ll never get out without my help. You can’t hurt me more than you already have. I won’t help you if you do.”
Harry laughed then and drew his stave. Dumbledore reared back in shock.
Dumbledore’s gaze narrowed. “Where did you get that Harry?”
“My patron gave it to me,” Harry said truthfully. He cast an incarceration spell at the old man and levitated him off the ground. He opened Gellert’s cell and tossed Dumbledore in with a flick of his stave. “Did you two want to say goodbye or anything? I mean, I don’t think either one of you is capable of real love, but you probably had something close to it once—some dark, twisted, thing that looked like love to you.”
Gellert giggled insanely. “Your golden boy is a bit dark, Albus.”
“He’s not going to kill us,” Albus said tiredly. “He’s just trying to get revenge on me for kidnapping him.”
“He got delusional his old age,” Harry told Grindelwald. “So here’s the thing—Gellert—you know too much about the Elder Wand, and Voldemort is going to get curious about that and probably come looking for you. I can’t allow you to speak with him about it and you might after you watch me murder your frenemy.”
“Frenemy?” Gellert questioned.
“It’s short for friend/enemy.”
“Ah, clever,” Gellert decided. “You’re right—if you kill Albus, I’ll definitely betray you to Tom Riddle.”
Harry grinned and leaned on the doorframe. “Were you always so frank or is it a byproduct of your crazy?”
“He’s a very honest dark wizard,” Albus said. He worked free of the ropes at that moment and sat up. “Now, my boy, I need you to understand…” He trailed off when Harry shook his head. “I’m working for the greater good.”
“So was this arsehole,” Harry said crossly and waved his hand at Gellert. He watched Dumbledore try to stand up, but his legs wouldn’t support him.
“What did you do to him?” Gellert questioned.
“Wandless crucio,” Harry admitted and shrugged when the old wizard lifted an eyebrow. “I’m gifted.”
Grindelwald grinned, toothlessly at him.
“Terrible dental plan in this place,” Harry said dryly. He pointed his stave at Grindelwald, and the barmy old bastard just smiled and closed his eyes. It was starting to feel like a mercy killing. “Avada Kedavra!”
Dumbledore shouted in shock and jerked forward awkwardly as the curse hit. Fury and astonishment warred on the old bastard’s face as he struggled to stand. Harry sent a stream of magic at him and shoved him against the wall then he stepped into the room. He pulled him down a bit, so they were eye to eye.
“The prophecy wasn’t about Riddle and me. It was about you and me. Riddle is a run-of-the-mill dark wizard with delusions of grandeur that you spent decades manipulating and using as a pawn.” He watched Dumbledore’s eyes go wide. “My parents defied you three times, didn’t they?” He laughed when the old bastard started to struggle. “As to how you marked me your enemy—it’s simple—really. You chose me as your new pawn. Tom got the role of the dark wizard, and I was going to be a figurehead—a hero for your third manufactured war. You must be wondering how you lost control of me and the situation. I bet it’s been keeping you up at night. The thing is that you never had control, to begin with.”
“Harry,” the old man started.
“Dying wish, Albus?”
“Tell me what happened to the Elder Wand.”
“I am the Elder Wand,” Harry said. He watched that information settle on Dumbledore and the genuine horror on the man’s face was delightful. “Perhaps Zir will answer the rest of your questions.” He backed up. “Avada Kedavra!” He pulled Dumbledore’s wand from his bracelet as he let the body drop to the floor. “Right. This is just a mess.” He hit both bodies with a Killing Curse each using Dumbledore’s wand. Then he moved the bodies until they were both curled up on Grindelwald’s cot.
At that moment, Dobby popped into the room. “Master Harry, Dumbles bring you to terrible jail!”
“Yep,” Harry said and motioned toward the bodies. “What do you think?”
Dobby huffed. “It be good work. What about volcano?”
“Hestia Jones is teaching DADA in the school. You can throw her in a volcano if you’d like.”
“Master Harry promise?”
“Sure—the first time she even looks at one of us wrong—just kidnap her and toss her in the volcano of your choice.” He dropped Dumbledore’s wand between the bodies then used his stave to cast a cleaning charm on the elderly wizard in case some industrious Muggle-born in the DMLE talked them into checking for DNA. “Can you detect my magic in here?”
Dobby closed his eyes and glowed. “No, it be clean.”
“Can you verify that this is, in fact, Dumbledore?”
“Yes, it be Dumbledore. Wizard tricks don’t fool us.” He held out his hand. “We go back to Hogwarts. You needs food.”
“I’m a bit peckish,” Harry agreed, and the elf popped them away.
Hermione embraced him as soon as they appeared. “Harry, where have you been, you complete tosser!”
“Dumbledore kidnapped me,” Harry defended. She glared up at him. “Okay, so I let him kidnap me. I was curious. He portkeyed me to Nurmengard.”
“Oh, perfect,” Draco said. “Are you okay, though?”
“Yes, I killed them both.”
“You…” Hermione trailed off. “You killed Dumbledore?”
“But first I crucio’d him,” Harry confessed.
Hermione and Draco exchanged a look then she focused on him. “Grindelwald?”
“Killed him, too—it was an act of charity honestly. Then I left them cuddled up on a cot.”
Draco burst out laughing. “Oh, that is amazing.”
“I had to promise Dobby I would let him throw Hestia Jones in a volcano because he was upset about leaving Dumbledore in the cell to be found.”
“Suicide pact or murder/suicide?” Draco questioned.
“I think murder/suicide works best. Dobby get us some of Dumbledore’s parchment and several samples of his handwriting.” Hermione was laughing a little to herself as she sat down at the desk.
“You’re troubled,” Draco said.
“It was easy,” Harry said. “I’m not sure if it was arrogance or maybe if he thought he had some divine purpose and was safe from death? I had Dobby verify it was him.” He took a deep breath and slouched down on the sofa. “I cast a crucio wandlessly. I just grabbed Dumbledore’s arm and pushed it into his body.”
“Wow.” Draco sat down beside him and picked up his hand. “Then?”
“He was old, and I held the curse for nearly thirty seconds. He couldn’t even stand by the time I was done,” Harry admitted. “Bellatrix was right—you gotta mean it. I put him in Grindelwald’s cell and killed them both. They’re both batshite, honestly. It really was practically a mercy killing for Grindelwald. That old bastard had been in that place for way too long.”
“Dobby, go steal Dumbledore’s personal journal,” Hermione said as she sharpened a quill. “We need to give it a thorough edit before anyone realizes he’s dead.”
* * * *
The next morning the hall was in good spirits since Dumbledore wasn’t looming over the head table being a broody arsehole about his bad press. They were getting ready to leave when McGonagall came over to the Gryffindor table with Hestia Jones in tow. “Lord Potter.”
“Good morning, Professor.” Harry stood and picked up his book bag.
“The headmaster isn’t on the grounds. Miss Jones reported that she saw him with you last night. Did he mention that he might leave at some point?”
“I went for a broom ride,” Harry said. “And flew around with Hedwig some—she’s getting a bit irritated with not having much mail to deliver. I landed on the Astronomy Tower and came down the stairs. The headmaster did stop me, and we spoke briefly. I don’t remember him saying anything about leaving the school, but he doesn’t confide in me about my own business much less his own. Perhaps he had business at the ministry? Doesn’t he have a brother in Hogsmeade?”
“What did the two of you talk about?” Jones demanded.
“Ah, you know, the same old thing—greater good—blah, blah, blah. You need to get a divorce—blah, blah, blah. Draco’s a dark wizard—blah, blah, blah. You need to see reason, Harry—blah…” He trailed off when the rest of Gryffindor chimed in with the ‘blahs’.
“Harry, you can’t leave the school because—blah, blah, blah,” Lavender chimed in.
“Harry, you can’t wear green pants because—blah, blah, blah,” Seamus sing-songed.
Francis hopped up on the bench and tried to look stern. “Harry, my boy,” she proclaimed in a growly voice. “I’m the headmaster and the boss of you!” She pointed at Seamus who stood then conducted the rest of the Gryffindors in chanting the ‘blahs’. “You can’t get married!” And she pointed. Harry started laughing when Seamus gamely made everyone else do the ‘blahs’ again. “You can’t claim your title!” She stomped her foot, and her aura flared out dramatically for her age. “Merlin’s pants, Harry Potter, are you breathing without my permission?”
The rest of the houses laughter almost drowned out the Gryffindor’s ‘blahs’. Harry helped Francis down when Jones glared at her. He patted her shoulder. “I don’t know where the old meddler trotted off to, Professors.”
Minerva coughed into her hand.
“But considering how difficult things have been over the past few months, it’s probably best to contact the DMLE sooner rather than later. If the headmaster’s been abducted—time could be of the essence.”
“You’re right, of course,” Minerva said. “Thank you, Lord Potter.”
Harry looked down at Francis as they left. “You’re my favorite.”
She grinned. “I know.”
* * * *
The news broke before dinner, long before Harry had been inclined to even write his anonymous letter which made him think that Hestia Jones or some other member of the Order had been in on the plan to kidnap him and knew Dumbledore was at Nurmengard. Or at least, they’d known to check the prison. McGonagall made the announcement at dinner in a subdued tone that really didn’t speak of grief. Harry remembered her being devastated the first time around and he wondered what Dumbledore had done in front of her to change how drastically she felt about her mentor. He wondered if they’d left the suicide note Hermione had created in place or if the Order had destroyed it to preserve Dumbledore’s legacy.
They were almost to their quarters when John Dawlish came darting up the stairs toward them. Fortunately, Amelia Bones wasn’t far behind him. Harry sighed as the woman came to a halt in front of him.
“Are you seriously going to question us about the death of the headmaster?” Hermione questioned with a frown. “He wasn’t killed on the school grounds, was he? Merlin, we really must consider attending the International Academy for our seventh year. It’s getting more dangerous by the minute to be in this school.”
Dawlish glared. “Potter was the last to see him.”
“Oh, well, that can’t be true since someone killed him. That person was the last person to see him whoever that person is,” Harry said. “Look, the old meddler was a pain in my arse, that’s no lie. He seemed to be convinced that he had the right to tell me how to live my life, but I didn’t consider him an enemy. I’ve already got one mortal enemy fucking about Great Britain—I really wouldn’t be interested in making another. Voldemort is enough enemy for anyone.”
“We can find out if you left the school,” Dawlish pointed out.
“Okay,” Harry said reasonably. “Go do that and come back if you can demonstrate proof that I left the school and traveled to wherever the headmaster was killed.”
“He was killed in Nurmengard,” Amelia Bones said.
Harry sighed and pulled his wand. He put the tip his chest, “I solemnly swear on my life and magic that I do not know where Nurmengard is located. So mote it be.” He stowed his wand. “Will that be all or should I contact a solicitor regarding this continued harassment?”
“That’ll be all and thank you for clearing the matter so quickly,” Bones said and urged Dawlish toward the stairs. The man tried to protest, but she glared at him. “We’re leaving.”
They all three sat down on the sofa immediately upon entering their quarters and stared at the empty fireplace. Harry drew his wand and threw a spell at it to light the wood that one of the elves had stacked in it.
“Molly’s next,” Hermione said after a long silence.
Harry relaxed beside her. “Yes, I agree.”
“Unless some Death Eater crosses our path,” Draco said and stretched his legs out in front of him.
“Random Death Eaters are starting to grow on me,” Harry agreed. “I can’t wait to cut off Greyback’s head. I’m really looking forward to it so if one of you catches him first—you have to save him for me.”
“Deal,” Draco agreed.
Hermione frowned. “I’ll try.”
Harry laughed and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. He pulled her close and kissed her forehead. “Thanks.”
* * * *
“Old Witch Wheezy batshite,” Winky declared the moment she appeared in front of them for her morning report. “She be ranting and raving all the time when she be alone about her poor Ginny.”
Hermione grinned as Winky rolled her eyes and Harry cleared his throat to keep from laughing. “Is she planning anything?”
“What be left of Dumbles stupid order meet at crooked house to make foolish plans that just get them all killed,” Winky explained. She produced a list of names. “They be plotting to kill yous family, Master Harry.”
Harry took the parchment and unfolded it. “Hestia Jones, Aberforth Dumbledore, Dedalus Diggle, Mundungus Fletcher, Elphias Doge, Sturgis Podmore, Arthur Weasley, Molly Weasley, and Albert Runcorn.” He frowned. “Runcorn isn’t part of the Order.”
“He join—he be Old Witch Wheezy’s cousin.” Winky paused. “His mother Cassandra Prewitt. He not like Old Wizard Wheezy because he not be…ambitious.”
Harry had the odd urge to praise her for her spying skills. “Runcorn is a blood purist. What’s his purpose in the Order? Do you know?”
“He work as spy for Dumbles long time,” Winky said. “Secret spying but Old Witch Wheezy say they need him to be full member to save the plan. They decide yous three be having stupid Ginny as hostage.”
Harry snorted. “Anything else?”
“Old Witch Wheezy tell Hestia Jones to kill your Lady.”
Dobby jumped up out of his chair and raised his hands in the air. “Yes! Dobby so happy!”
Winky sighed and rolled her eyes before turning back to Harry. “Winky not like volcanos.”
“You don’t have to go,” Harry promised. “Dobby—you can kidnap her as soon as possible, and you can wake her up before you toss her in if you like.”
“I need supplies!” Dobby shouted and disappeared with a loud pop.
“He be so silly,” Winky said darkly. “It be so much more fun to throw people in Nundu Preserve.”
Harry hesitated. “Hmmm, Winky, how many people have you thrown into the Nundu Preserve?”
She smiled and shrugged. “It be ugly to brag, Master Harry.”
* * * *
Hestia Jones wasn’t at breakfast. Harry was more amused than anything else when McGonagall locked down the school and called the DMLE as soon as she realized that the professor wasn’t on the grounds. He wondered if Amelia Bones was considering just setting up an office in the school to save time. Hermione had moved down the table and was working with the first and second years on a few charms. Draco was proofing an essay from a fourth year who had slid up to him and offered it shyly.
Harry had spent the first half hour writing in his grimoire then had accepted several defense essays from the second years who were looking at him like little predators. He was reading Francis’ essay on werewolves when John Dawlish approached their table.
Without even looking up at the auror he cleared his throat. “Auror Dawlish, if you accuse me of having anything to do with Hestia Jones’ disappearance I’m going to challenge you to a duel.” He looked up and found the older man staring at him in shock. “Why don’t you go do your job and leave off trying to blame me for everything that goes wrong on the whole planet. I’m a sixteen-year-old newlywed. When I’m not in class—I’m doing exactly what any sixteen year old in my position would do. I’ve got two extremely attractive spouses. I don’t have time to do half the things you think I’ve done and don’t have the energy to do the other half.”
McGonagall sighed. “Auror Dawlish, I won’t allow you to question my students without proper clearance from the Board of Governors and the Head of the Department of Education. Lord Potter might be emancipated, but he is still a student here and a minor. Go join the rest of your people in inspecting Professor Jones quarters. For the record, not a single student has been anywhere near the teacher’s quarters since I became Headmistress, so I know for a fact that not a single one of them had anything to do with the attack or the suspected kidnapping.”
Dawlish opened his mouth.
“I already owe you one, John Dawlish,” McGonagall hissed. “Get the hell out of this hall!”
Deadmarsh appeared almost immediately at her side and Flitwick wasn’t far behind. “You’re not creating a problem, are you, John?”
“None of you have the right to…” He reared back in shock when McGonagall drew her wand. Everyone in Gryffindor stood and pointed wands at him. “What…” He jumped and turned around.
Luna Lovegood raised an eyebrow and poked him with her wand again. “You should go. We’re not going to let you curse her again.”
Harry realized that the entire student population was pointing their wands at Dawlish. “Some of these kids don’t know their own strength—you could end up thrown through a wall if you startle one of them.”
Dawlish glared at him but left, pulling the doors shut with a bang.
Francis huffed. “I think he has a big boner for you than Voldemort does.”
“Look what you’ve done, Hermione,” Harry demanded. “You’ve corrupted Francis!”
Minerva sighed, and Flitwick burst into a fit of giggles.
* * * *
“Ripples,” Harry murmured. He ran his hand down the length of Draco’s back and his Consort hummed against his shoulder.
“What about ripples?” Draco questioned.
“It’s just that all the changes we’ve made are rippling out around us—good and bad. We’re changing people, their circumstances, their fate.”
“I wonder how many times we’ve had this discussion about your duty,” Draco murmured. “Nothing impacts someone’s life like Death, Harry.”
Hermione dropped a towel in the basket by the bathroom door and strolled across the room. She crawled into the bed and sighed. “Are you brooding?”
“Maybe a little,” Harry said. He pulled her close, and she tangled a leg with theirs. “Zir told me that it was always Hedwig’s destiny to be a phoenix, but Dumbledore’s control over Fawkes prevented it in the first timeline. He said she’ll come to us each time we are reborn from now on.”
“But?” Draco questioned.
Harry sighed. “She’s different, but it’s better than losing her altogether like I did the first time. Out of all the things I’ve had to adjust to—this appears to be my stumbling block.”
“Well, you were bound to have one.” Hermione yawned against his chest. “It’s kind of horrifying, but I’m too tired to shag.”
“Our poor girl,” Harry said with a laugh and shifted around. He moved her between them with easy strength, and she curled an arm around a pillow. “Sleep then. We have mayhem to plan and more people to kill.”
“Awesome.” She yawned again. “I wonder if Winky could get me a nundu?”
Draco snorted as she drifted off to sleep. “You must order that elf to never bring her a nundu.”
Harry grinned and shrugged. “You did say we should give her whatever she wants.”
“A castle is reasonable,” Draco declared. “A nundu is not bloody reasonable.”
* * * *
Jones’ disappearance barely earned a mention in the Prophet, but that was to be expected since half the paper was dedicated to lurid excerpts from Dumbledore’s diary detailing his lifelong affair with Grindelwald. It read like a nightmare and made it seem like Dumbledore had kept the man in prison as a personal sex slave. Harry didn’t even know who to blame for that particular slant—Hermione or Draco. They’d managed to finish altering the diary and return it the headmaster’s quarters before the DMLE had come to search the rooms for clues regarding Dumbledore’s suicide.
He skimmed the entries, shocked by the details the paper had actually published. Rita was in rare form and certainly in her element. He couldn’t figure out where their fiction started, and hers began, and perhaps it didn’t matter. The damage was done, and the school was being inspected for a sex dungeon of all things. The rumors they’d started about Dumbledore, Snape, and Ron had gotten stirred back up much to Lavender’s glee who’d gotten a letter published in Witch Weekly about the whole sordid affair.
“You look horrified,” Draco pointed out.
“I really didn’t need to know this much about Dumbledore’s heated loins,” Harry said and waved the paper. “This is obscene! How could they publish this?”
Hermione smirked. “You’d think they’d have been a little more selective about what they published. Maybe this is the tamest stuff they could find to publish.” She took his paper and opened it back up. “I feel sorry for Gellert, actually. Why didn’t anyone interfere? You know he didn’t even get a trial. Granted, he was a terrible and dark wizard, but he was just tossed in that place by himself for decades with no contact with anyone but Dumbledore and held hostage to their…how did Dumbledore put it.” She quickly read through the paper. “Ah, yes, ‘he’s not a prisoner but a hostage to our passionate love. It is my duty to keep him safe for the greater good.”
Draco laughed. “How exactly was Dumbledore keeping a dark wizard as a sex slave for the greater good?”
“It’s actually sad he was defiling that passionate love with Snape,” Lavender said and sighed. “Poor Gellert—no wonder he was a dark wizard—he was in love with a cheating arsehole.”
“His response wasn’t healthy,” Francis interjected. “When a wizard does you wrong—you just curse him and move on. You can get you a new one.” She snapped her fingers. “Like that.”
Harry frowned. He wasn’t sure he could blame that attitude on his wife, but she was smirking so he slipped his hand under the table and pinched her thigh. She laughed and pinched him back.
They breezed through classes for the day including a DADA class with Deadmarsh as the teacher. It had been announced that the other professors would be trading off on teaching that class for the rest of the year as there was no need to hire another professor since the term was almost over. The class had been canceled for first through fourth year until next term which really only meant more little kids were running around the place with less to do. He was also kind of irritated to have wasted time proofing essays that wouldn’t be turned which he figured was kind of petty, but he was willing to own it.
* * * *
Draco left the pensieve with a laugh. He’d watched the whole volcano thing six times and came out laughing every single time. Hermione had only watched it once and had given Dobby lines as punishment—apparently taunting your victim before throwing them in a volcano crossed a line for her. Harry was far too amused by his spouses to even properly enjoy the whole volcano thing, but Dobby had been entertained, and Merlin knew that elf had rarely had much in his life to be happy about.
The power vacuum in the Order of the Phoenix left after Dumbledore’s death was, in Harry’s mind, more dangerous than their previous circumstances. Now, the Order was at the mercy of emotion and in Molly’s case, grief. It said a lot that her first move as the quasi-leader of the Order had been to plan the murder of Hermione in front of all the other members. Dumbledore had done some dark shite, of course, but he hadn’t involved the entire Order in those matters. His skillful and subtle compartmentalization had allowed the survival of the organization on a long-term basis. Molly Weasley wasn’t remotely subtle.
He wondered if targeting Ginny had done more harm than good now. They knew from personal experience that Molly was actually a more dangerous enemy than Tom Riddle could ever want to be. There was a sharp knock on the door, and Harry glanced toward it. He stood as Dobby popped away from the pensieve. Before opening the door, he drew his wand. It was a surprise to find Quintin Deadmarsh on the opposite side of the door.
“Lord Potter,” Deadmarsh said. He looked to his left then to his right. “May I enter?”
“Yes, of course,” Harry murmured and stepped back to allow the man entry. “Is something wrong?” He closed the door and noted that both his spouses had drawn their wands as well.
“I don’t know that’s why I’m here,” Deadmarsh said plainly. “In the morning, it will be announced that Minister Diggory has chosen Arthur Weasley to be his new undersecretary.”
Harry sat down. Dread pooled in his stomach, and he glanced at his wife. Hermione was pale which wasn’t a surprise.
“I take it from your reaction that this news is distressing,” Deadmarsh murmured. “Ragnok is plotting an immense amount of revenge on Molly Weasley for her transgressions, and he wishes to know what you think of her.”
“She’s obscenely greedy,” Harry murmured. “Money hungry and grief-stricken. We both know she has no problem manipulating her own children, so I imagine that Minister Diggory has already been potioned in some form or another. But her focus is narrow and to be honest, she’s been groomed by Dumbledore to seek his version of the greater good. Dumbledore considered me the focal point of that vision because he believed it was my prophesied fate to defeat Voldemort.”
“And are you?” Deadmarsh questioned.
Harry focused on him and found the man grim-faced. “No, but I do know how to defeat Voldemort and I will because he believes me his enemy—a belief Dumbledore took great pains to foster. That old bastard made me a target as an infant and Voldemort focused in on me with no apparent hesitation. But then Riddle has been allowing Dumbledore to manipulate him since he was a student here.”
“Should the Horde consider Molly and Arthur Weasley a threat to them?” Deadmarsh questioned.
A little thrill went through Harry at the thought of saying yes, but he wouldn’t lie to Deadmarsh. “No, not directly. They are a threat to me and my marriage. Molly believes I’m holding her daughter hostage so she’s going to come at me from every direction she can.”
Deadmarsh nodded. “Thank you for your time, Lord Potter.” The professor walked to the door then paused before opening it. “Ragnok sends his regards.”
That felt like approval and Harry wondered what Deadmarsh would’ve said if he’d felt deceived. The door shut and he looked toward his Consort. Draco was frowning.
“Did I handle that badly?”
“No, but I think you just signed Molly Weasley’s death warrant, and it was my turn to kill her, Harry.”
“Sorry, love, but what choice did I have?”
“None,” Draco admitted with a huff. “Ragnok obviously finds Arthur Weasley’s promotion a problem and of course, it is a problem. In the future, that promotion marked the beginning of the ministry’s offensive against us. Percival was her heavy hitter, and he’s out of the picture.”
“I don’t know that I would consider him her heavy hitter,” Hermione murmured. “Her weapon of choice was politics. She turned the wizarding public against Harry because of me and you, Draco. We were in the way of what her precious daughter wanted, and now Ginny’s missing—her drive will be to find her daughter and to destroy Harry for the choices he made that ruined the future she wanted for her family. She probably suspects that Harry or you killed Ron as well. Perhaps she hasn’t connected us to Percy’s death but the three of us are definitely the authors of her tragedy, and she’s already put things in motion to punish us for it.”
“Do you want to pull Ginny out of the Chamber?” Harry questioned.
Hermione frowned. “No, as long as she’s not in play—Molly will focus on finding her rather than breaking up our marriage.”
“And after Molly is dead?”
“Allowing her to be found and revived after the death of her mother would be an immense blow psychologically,” Hermione murmured. “Perhaps too much of a blow? She’s already dark as fuck and not in any fun sort of way. Her mother has spent a great deal of time feeding her that tripe about being your wife, Harry. Would any children we have be safe with Ginny Weasley alive and moving around?”
“So we leave her in the chamber,” Draco said. “Honestly, it’s better than she deserves because she is a threat to us, to our family, and that can’t be tolerated. We gave them quarter the first time around, and the price we paid was monstrous.”
Harry needed no reminders of the price they’d paid, so he pushed the thought of it down deep and breathed in deeply through his nose then exhaled slowly. His magic surfaced briefly on his skin.
The house elf appeared immediately. She handed him Branwell he hooted excitedly. “Yes, Master Harry?”
Harry petted the owlet gently as he considered his options. “Have you heard any conversations at the Burrow about Arthur Weasley becoming the Undersecretary for the Minister for Magic?”
Winky frowned. “No….old Wheezy not be home much lately.” She huffed. “I go spy at ministry?”
“No, that’s fine. Your primary mission remains Molly. Do you know what she did with the potion she was brewing?”
“She be giving vials to Old Wheezy and Goatfucker Dumbles.”
Harry laughed before he could help himself. “I see. And what were their instructions regarding the potions?”
“Old Wheezy be given a list of names at the ministry but I not see it,” Winky admitted. “I be trying but she not leave it out for me to read. Goatfucker Dumbles be told to potion Professor Kitty.”
Harry frowned. “Winky, you can throw Goatfucker Dumbles in the Nundu Preserve.”
Winky smirked. “I go get my sack!” She popped away leaving Branwell behind.
“She has a special sack for snatching people to throw into the nundu preserve,” Draco mused. “I wonder who is to blame for that? Crouch, Sr. or Crouch, Jr.?”
Harry shrugged and focused on Branwell who was perched on his index finger. “Your mum’s going to miss you.”
Branwell puffed up and hooted.
“You’re not grown,” Harry told him sternly. “And you’re going back to the island first thing in the morning.”
Branwell twittered sadly and tried to hide his head under a wing.
“Now you’ve hurt his feelings,” Draco said in amusement.
* * * *
Three days later, The Quibbler, started a special series on the life and times of Aberforth Dumbledore who died in mysterious circumstances, naked, in the International Nundu Preserve. The general consensus was that he should’ve stuck with goats. Dobby had been so impressed that he’d offered Winky a courting gesture, the specifics of which Harry had decided not to ask about.
School ended, and they traveled home with no problem which put Harry on edge. It was odd not having Albus Dumbledore in his face, and Molly Weasley’s emotional approach to their destruction had proved devastating for them once already. He wondered how far they could push a man like Arthur Weasley—two dead children and a third gone without a trace. In the future, he’d proved to be his wife’s lackey until the day she died.
“What are you thinking about?” Hermione questioned.
Harry looked across the expanse of green grass that separated them. She was tending to a flower garden that really didn’t need her interference and Draco was lounging in a hammock a few meters away from him. Harry set the book he had in his lap beside him on the blanket he was seated on.
“How far can you push a weak man before he goes off the deep end?” Harry questioned.
“You mean Arthur Weasley.”
Hermione hummed under her breath. “Do you honestly consider him weak? Would a weak man have even survived marriage to Molly? I just wonder if it’s a matter of perception—is Arthur seen as weak because Molly is such a loud bitch?”
Harry frowned and started to speak then leaned back on his hands and considered that. “You’re saying she overshadows him? Is it on purpose, you think?”
“The Weasley family isn’t matriarchal like many assume,” Draco said from the hammock. He used his wand to start swinging slowly. “My father found Arthur Weasley particularly vexing because he let his witch run roughshod over the entire family.”
“Let,” Harry murmured. “He lets her run everything. Are you saying that he’s deeper in the planning than we’ve discovered?”
“Even if he weren’t before—he’s lost three children, and Molly has probably convinced him that we’re to blame,” Hermione said then turned and focused on her flowers. “I imagine Ginny was the serious blow emotionally. They obviously had a need for Percy for far longer than we ever expected, but Ron was a disappointment across the board. I’m not saying they didn’t love him, but he wasn’t a great asset.”
“Do you suppose that Dumbledore gathered like-minded people for the Order or did he corrupt them over the years?”
“I think he favored people he could manipulate and control,” Draco said. “He’s no different than Riddle in that respect.”
“We need to locate Nagini,” Harry said.
“Her destruction will put Riddle on guard,” Hermione said. “But we already have his other horcruxes. Will he make another?”
“He’s deeply superstitious. I don’t think he would’ve made Nagini one if he’d known about the one that I had. He always meant to split his soul into seven parts—six horcruxes and the part that he carried. He made his official sixth one as soon as he could—because of his beliefs and his paranoia. He probably knows the diary has been destroyed but believes the others are safe. In the other timeline, I don’t think he knew Dumbledore had figured that out until we were hunting for them—perhaps he wasn’t even in certain until we destroyed the locket.”
“We can destroy them all at once—use it to lure him into a fight,” Draco said. “I have a hit list. I’d like to take out some people before they start taking over the ministry in earnest. Riddle won’t continue to hesitate. We’ve thrown him off stride over the entire year, but he’s going to want to seize control of the narrative of what he considers a war.”
“Meanwhile, the ministry is a mess, and the Order is plotting to kill me,” Hermione said wryly.
Harry scowled. “I can’t even have a proper summer vacation because of all these arseholes.”
Draco snorted then burst out laughing. Harry drew his wand and used a burst of magic to shove his Consort out of the hammock. He huffed when Hermione cushioned Draco’s fall with a spell.
Draco stood and ran his fingers through his hair. “Seriously, we need to kill a whole bunch of people.”
“We need to stock the dimensional trunk in case we have to use it for headquarters,” Harry said. “Food, potions, etc. Then we start setting traps for Nagini.”
“Agreed,” Hermione said and stood. “I’ll start arranging space in the trunk. We’ll need a potions lab.”
“I still have Walburga’s equipment packed,” Draco said. “I just need to send Dobby out with a shopping list for ingredients.”
“What’s wrong?” Harry questioned.
“It’s always bothered me that Molly went to such lengths to see Dumbledore’s plan through. I mean, at one point you offered her a half million galleons to leave you alone, and she refused,” Hermione said. “So if it wasn’t money then there is something we’re not seeing. They essentially destroyed your political power as the Earl of Blackmoor in the previous timeline to control you, so it isn’t that either—at least not on the surface. I think the political power, fame, and money were secondary to all of them.”
“Dumbledore believed he could defeat Riddle whenever he wanted, so it isn’t about the prophecy,” Draco said he pushed his half-eaten cake away and sat back in his chair with a glass of wine. “Death’s Trinity. They were deeply invested in keeping us apart last time, and Deadmarsh said that anyone with the right knowledge would be able to see we were marked by Zir.”
“Dumbledore was put off by the knowledge that I was learning about Zir,” Harry acknowledged. “But was he really so vain and foolish to attempt to interfere directly with Zir’s will?”
“Of course he was,” Draco said dryly and sighed. “But what do they see in us that we don’t? Is it magical potential or something more profound? You’re probably the single most powerful wizard on the planet right now, Harry. Neither Riddle nor Dumbledore had any hope of truly being your equal when it came to magical power.”
“And the prophecy?” Harry questioned.
“You had to have more power—to combat Dumbledore’s knowledge and experience. It’s how the prophecy made you equal. Dumbledore must have realized very early on that you were far more dangerous to him than Riddle would ever be. Even if it never crossed his mind that the prophecy was about him and you, he must have come to understand that the prophecy might have been about you, but it wasn’t about Riddle. The question becomes if he realized Riddle was a secondary player in your destiny…then why did he fight to so hard to subdue and control you if it wasn’t to protect himself.”
“Dumbledore was horrified to learn the prophecy was about him,” Harry murmured. “And even more…shocked to discover what had really happened to the Elder Wand. Becoming the Hallows was never part of our original destiny, so whatever that old bastard wished to control it wasn’t about them.”
“But maybe the Hallows were at the root of it all—Dumbledore was just obsessed with them as Luna’s father,” Hermione said. “Maybe it was just is a game of power. It’s just…”
“What?” Draco asked gently.
“Their desires seem so shallow in the face of what we lost,” Hermione said. “I suppose I should care about the grief we’ve caused since we returned to the past, but I don’t. I want them all to suffer as much as possible. Even the people who just stood by and did nothing while it was happening—I want them to hurt, too. Diggory and the Weasleys were the authors of our nightmare future, but no one interfered. People who should’ve…stood with us simply faded into the background. Perhaps it was for fear they would be persecuted with us or more it was fear of their little world being disturbed again. Riddle damaged them too much, perhaps. It’s like he tainted the very fabric of good in Britain and we weren’t immune to that.”
“No, not at all,” Harry agreed. “And it’s changed us for eternity.” He touched his sternum, and a phantom pain drifted down the bone. “But we have Zir to keep us on the path he set for us.”
“Is free will an illusion then?” Draco asked as he stood from the table. He walked to the edge of the patio and stared out over the blooming garden.
“He could’ve prevented me from completing the ritual,” Harry reminded. “Zir could’ve…killed us all and we’d have been reincarnated. He didn’t. Dumbledore said he was a neutral god.”
“So he is,” Draco murmured and tossed back the rest of his wine. “In order to lure Nagini away from Riddle, we’re going to have to get out there and be seen. He sent that snake to Godric’s Hollow because he knew you’d go there eventually to find out more about him from Grindelwald’s aunt.”
“Agreed,” Hermione said. “But before we start poking at Tom Riddle—we need to end this game with Molly Weasley.”
“And I guess we need to make a real decision about what to do with Ginny Weasley,” Draco murmured.
“What are the choices?” Harry asked.
“We pull her out of the column take the last five or so years of memory from her and deliver her to Bill Weasley,” Draco said.
“You could take five years of the memories without causing permanent brain damage?” Hermione questioned.
“No, but Harry could.” Draco turned to him. “Right?”
Harry grimaced. “She killed my owl.”
“Because her mother or Dumbledore told her to,” Hermione reminded. “Probably Dumbledore, who convinced her that you killed Ron. It’s kind of annoying that no one ever accuses me of murder. It’s utterly sexist.”
He laughed before he could help himself. “Be sure to tell Dawlish that the next time he questions me for murdering someone who deserves it.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Yeah, I could take five or so years—anything more would cause severe mental problems and physical brain damage. I’ve often wondered if that’s what really happened to Neville’s parents. I mean I know they were tortured by the Lestranges it just seems Frank’s condition is so much more…”
“Dumbledore wanted to neutralize the Longbottom family within the Wizengamot,” Draco pointed out. “There is no telling what he did to them before they ended up at St. Mungo’s. Augusta Longbottom wasn’t in a state to keep her own grandson from being abused magically, so there is no telling what…” He sighed. “I think you killed him too quickly.”
“His physical death is the least of his punishments,” Harry said. “It’s the destruction of his public persona that will eat at him for eternity. He’s powerless, now, and unable to interfere as we unravel decades of planning. Maybe it was never really about us but about his vision for the future of Britain and the magical world. Molly had personal motivations at play, and she went to great lengths to give Ginny whatever she wanted, and that silly little girl wanted me.”
“I often wondered if she was trained to want you,” Hermione said. “You were what her mother taught her to want. Ginny was a spoiled little girl, and she turned into a vicious adult. Will memory charming her be enough?”
“I don’t think so because there is no telling how long Molly has been indoctrinating her to the cause. I could curse the shite out of her.”
“Parselmagic,” Draco said. “Are you ready to take that step?”
“Yes, I’m ready, but that might be discovered. Let’s just keep thinking about her in the background, and we’ll come upon a solution when we the time is right.”
Whatever reluctance that had lingered him since their return to the past had evaporated in the minutes before he killed Dumbledore. It was odd that the old man’s death was his turning point, again. Snape murdering headmaster in the first timeline had flipped a switch in Harry that he couldn’t explain, and his quest for the horcruxes had been as much about avenging the old meddler as it had been about justice. It was embarrassing now, to realize how gullible and foolish he’d been in the first timeline. There was no denying that Dumbledore had led him down a path to suicide.
“Dumbledore never intended for me to survive, we know that,” Harry said. “I guess, in the end, they decided if they couldn’t kill me then they had to control me, so I didn’t interfere with their plans. Ron said it—he said I didn’t get to have a normal life and that I had no choice but to serve the greater good. He meant it. They don’t think I should be allowed to have any sort of choices. I’m an instrument of prophecy—a weapon for them to point in whatever direction they wish.”
“This is making me more homicidal,” Draco muttered. “Let’s question Molly Weasley. Thoroughly.”
“Very thoroughly,” Hermione agreed. “The trunk is ready. Let’s find someplace to stick it and use it for field operations. I’ve created a couple of cells for prisoners.”
* * * *
They buried the operations trunk under the floor of the Shrieking Shack and created a password protected entrance spot above it that worked much like the phone booth at the ministry. Since there was no longer any need to fuck about and take their time, they kidnapped Kingsley Shacklebolt first. They cloaked themselves, and Draco carefully placed distortion charms over their faces—charms like the Unspeakables wore, but his were stronger and disorienting to look at. As it was, Kingsley only saw one of them at a time as the rest of the trunk had been darkened to the point that it looked more like a cave than a room.
“Who are you?” Shacklebolt demanded as Harry sat down in the chair in front of him.
“The question is, Head Auror Shacklebolt, is who do you serve?” Harry fought the urge to clear this throat—the charm on his voice made him sound like a creepy old man.
“I work for the Ministry of Magic.”
“Who do you serve?” Harry asked again, and he watched the man struggle against the powerful truth spells they’d put on the chair. “Dumbledore, perhaps?”
“That old bastard is dead,” Shacklebolt hissed. “Killed himself.”
“Did he?” Harry asked. “Are you certain?”
“It was made to look that way,” Kingsley said finally and relaxed against the ropes. “Which was good enough for me. Dumbledore potioned me for more than a decade, forced me to act on his behalf using a variety of compulsion charms.”
“No, I can fight that off,” Shacklebolt said roughly. “Behavioral compulsions combined with potions are harder to fight off…impossible after long-term exposure.” He frowned. “Who are you?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Harry said. “If you are innocent, you will live to see another day, and if you are not, you’ll die.”
“Innocent of what?” Kingsley asked roughly. “I’m not a Death Eater, but I don’t think you care.”
“Oh, you’re right, I couldn’t care less if you’re a Death Eater. Granted, I like to kill those bastards on sight but bowing down to Riddle isn’t the only way to get yourself killed in Britain.”
“The third faction,” Kingsley murmured, and his gaze jerked around as if he was trying to penetrate the darkness that swaddled them. “I thought…Dumbledore was paranoid. Are you Unspeakables? Croaker are you here? You know you can trust me.”
“Tell me about Dumbledore’s plans,” Harry ordered. “Everything. Tell me everything you know.”
“What does that matter now, he’s dead?”
“And you think his plans died with him? Surely you realize there are members of the Order of the Phoenix that still work to meet his goals.”
Kingsley lowered his head and took a deep breath. “I never knew it at all—just enough to do as he needed within the Ministry. I’d tried to fight him in the beginning, but that just resulted in me being potioned within an inch of my life. I wasn’t free of that shite until the ministry started testing for outside influence.”
“What was the first thing Dumbledore made you do?”
“He forced me to leave my partner in Azkaban,” Kingsley confessed hoarsely.
“Sirius Black was your partner in the aurors?”
“Yes, we were paired together in training. Sirius wanted to be with James Potter, but the higher-ups knew they would work better apart. I was his partner, and Frank Longbottom was partnered with Potter. I knew Sirius wasn’t the Secret Keeper, but Dumbledore…he wouldn’t let me say anything. I knew Sirius hadn’t killed all of those Muggles, he’d have never been that reckless not even in a temper.” Shacklebolt took a haggard breath and closed his eyes. “All to control Harry Potter.”
“What about Harry Potter? Why was the kid so important?”
“Money, power, destiny,” Shacklebolt murmured. “Have you ever seen Potter?”
“He’s marked by Zirnitra at his birth. It was a boon for the House of Potter. Everyone was so excited…well, everyone but Dumbledore. Albus feared the Potter boy when he was little more than an infant. He tried to get James and Lily to put a magical limiter on his core before his first birthday to hinder the growth of his magic. It could’ve crippled him, but Dumbledore didn’t care. James was furious and forced Dumbledore to make a vow on his magic to never do such a thing to Harry.”
“And Dumbledore made the vow?”
“The Potter family had a lot of social power, and James was funding the Order entirely out of his own pocket. The old bastard had no choice but to make the vow. Unfortunately, he wiggled around that by having Snape do it. They were pretty upset that none of the methods they chose to subdue the kid worked,” Kingsley said and shifted in the ropes. “These are tight. I’m not opposed to a conversation, but the bondage is a bit much for a first date.”
Harry snorted and used his wand to loosen the ropes slightly. “They’re intent based—if you get hostile they’ll tighten up again. You weren’t in a great mood when we brought you here.”
“Being kidnapped pisses me off.”
“On that, we can agree,” Harry said. “Why did Dumbledore fear the Potter child so much?”
“Dumbledore feared anyone and anything he could not manipulate and control,” Shacklebolt said. “If there was more to it, he never shared it with me. He had a vision of the future of our world, and anyone who was a threat to that vision met their end one way or another.”
“Like Frank and Alice Longbottom.”
“They were in the way of him placing the Potter boy in the Muggle world. He’d have never gotten away with that bullshite if Frank Longbottom were capable of interfering. I always thought…well…I couldn’t prove it. Dumbledore said it was about the blood protection, but that was bullshite. He hoped that growing up unloved and abused would do to Potter what it did to Riddle.”
Harry’s stomach lurched. “What?”
“Riddle was marked by Zirnitra—there were others in the past that Dumbledore neutralized in different ways. Three children died at Hogwarts that bore the magical mark of Zir—all from Light families. I think he’d have killed Potter if the kid weren’t so famous.”
“Dumbledore set himself against the God of Sorcery.”
“Albus didn’t believe Zir to be a god—merely an agent of dark magic. He saw his markings of young children in light families as attacks against the Light itself. Don’t you see?”
“Zir is neutral.”
“I was taught the same.”
“How did Riddle’s childhood shape him?”
“It corrupted his personality to grow up as he did,” Shacklebolt said gravely. “And it also damaged his magic. He was never half as powerful as he could’ve been. Riddle was meant to be an archmagus—but he took a dark path in life, and it destroyed his magical potential. Hatred and contempt of life leave very little room for Zir’s gift, you see.”
“So Riddle turned to alternative means to gain power because he was denied his magical birthright.”
“In a manner of speaking, yes,” the auror said. “But it’s more complicated than that. Some believe that Zir ensures neutrality and balance by creating darkness.”
“But?” Harry pressed.
“He doesn’t have to create it—he merely has to allow it. Tom Riddle was weak, easily led by the ideas of others and emotionally corrupt. He’d have never been a good, light wizard.”
“But Dumbledore turned him into a Dark Lord,” Harry surmised.
“Give a bastard someone to rail against, and a cause will be born,” Shacklebolt said wryly then frowned. “This chair is more powerful than the witness box in the Wizengamot. Are you with the ICW? A war mage?”
“In another life,” Harry said with some amusement. “Do you suppose Dumbledore succeeded in destroying Potter’s magical potential?”
“No, I don’t think he did, and Albus feared that more than anything.”
“Now, one final question, Mr. Shacklebolt, and you can go on about your business.”
“What do you know about the Order’s plans?”
“Nothing. I quit before Dumbledore was killed and I’ve ignored all of Molly Weasley’s communications since. I’m doing my job and doing my best to capture and prosecute as many Death Eaters as I can.” He paused. “Though I appreciate your efforts in killing them—less paperwork in the long run. Of course, it’s illegal as fuck, and I’ll arrest you if I catch you. It’s just I also enjoy your work on a personal level.”
“It’s always nice to meet a fan,” Harry said dryly. He inclined his head, and a stunning spell shot out of the dark and hit Shacklebolt.
“I like him despite myself,” Draco said admitted roughly.
Hermione stepped into the light as Draco loosened the ropes completely then she dropped a portkey on the auror to send him on his way. “Well, that was disappointing.”
“But informative regarding Dumbledore’s motivations,” Harry said. “I figured Shacklebolt was more pawn than a genuine player on the board.”
“We should’ve found a way to interrogate Snape,” Hermione said.
“Oh, no, I think we’ll find that Molly is a much better choice for that. I think out of everyone in the Order, Dumbledore confided in her far more than he did anyone else which is surprising and a little discomforting,” Harry grimaced.
Draco sighed. “Yes, well if Dumbledore is a Dark Lord, then Molly Weasley is his Bellatrix, and that’s nightmare inducing.”
* * * *
Elphias Doge, their next guest, was easier to kidnap than Shacklebolt had been. The old man had a thin set of security wards that Draco was able to step right through with no effort at all. He’d portkeyed the elderly wizard to the trunk after a quick stunning spell, and they deposited him in the interrogation chair still dressed in his night clothes. It rather amused Harry that Doge favored an old-fashioned nightgown for sleep.
The magic on the chair didn’t let Doge sleep long. Harry watched the old guy wake slowly, his body stiffening up with shock and fear as the ropes pressed ever so slightly around him in warning.
“What?” Doge looked around. “Where am I?”
“Is that really the most pressing concern you have?” Harry questioned.
“Yes,” Doge answered belligerently. “Who are you?”
“Better question.” Harry tossed one leg over the arm of his own chair and lounged in it. “As to your first question—consider yourself on trial.”
“And you’re the judge?”
“Then who are you?” Doge demanded in a near hiss as he jerked against the restraints. The ropes tightened around him, slithering like snakes as they worked to confine him.
“Tell me, Mr. Doge, how did you feel when Molly Weasley laid out her plan to murder the Countess and Consort of Blackmoor?”
Doge frowned and tried to shrug. “How did you find out about that? Who are you?”
“Answer my questions, and I’ll answer yours,” Harry said. “Stop fighting the chair before the ropes suffocate you. I’d hate for you to die…unexpectedly.”
Doge huffed. “Malfoy is a dark little bastard just like his father and who cares about the Muggle-born? Albus said…” He trailed off and gagged.
“There is no use in trying to fight the spells on the chair, Mr. Doge unless you’d like to choke on your own tongue.” Harry leaned forward slightly, and the disruptive magic on his face glittered in what little light was available to them.
Doge shuddered and averted his gaze. “Fucking Unspeakables! You can’t just hold me hostage like this Croaker!”
“Oh, you wish I worked for the ministry,” Harry said with a laugh. “What did Dumbledore say about the Potter marriage?”
“The triad must be destroyed,” Doge snapped. “The Potter boy has to willingly die for the Light or all we be lost to Voldemort. He can’t have anything left to live for! Let me go Croaker, you’ll see us all destroyed if we can’t finish Albus’ work!”
“He’s deranged,” Hermione whispered and Doge’s gaze jerked to the sound of her voice, lost in the void that spread out around them.
“Who else is here?”
“That’s really none of your business,” Harry said. “Why must Potter die for the Light? What is to be gained from that?”
“An Archmagus’ only purpose is to die for us,” Doge said pompously. “They are born—those touched by Zir—to die for us. Their deaths renew magic, strengthen those of us who remain. We’ll all be stronger, more powerful when Potter does his duty. If he pure of purpose, he will be returned to us—a beacon for the Light. He will lead us forward into a new magical enlightenment.”
“And if he doesn’t return to you?” Harry questioned. “If he isn’t resurrected?”
“If Zir keeps Potter’s soul and does not return him to us then we have failed them both,” Doge said gravely. “It must not come to pass, Croaker. We must do nothing to anger Zir. Dumbledore was very clear on this matter—we must lead Potter on his path and clear the way for his proper sacrifice. No wizard with a trinity bond would willingly sacrifice himself—the marriage must be destroyed for the greater good.”
“That is the biggest load of dragonshite I’ve ever heard,” Draco said dryly. He walked into the light and leaned on Harry’s chair. “And I’ve heard some seriously stupid shit in my lifetime. Though this one sounds kind of familiar.”
“There are lots of creator/son/resurrection myths,” Hermione said and joined them in the bubble of light. “Though normally these individuals are considered gods themselves—Osiris, Dionysus, Adonis and notably Jesus Christ who is the son of the Christian God. Why do you suppose Zir would send his most magical children to earth to kill themselves, Mr. Doge?”
“To renew magic,” Doge said resolutely. “It is the only way, of course.”
“So the Order of the Phoenix is a…cult?” Harry frowned. “Or is this guy just a nutter?”
“A nutter than Dumbledore preyed on,” Draco speculated. “I’ve had a comprehensive pure-blood education, and I assure I’ve never heard any sort of nonsense like this.”
“I’ve studied Zir extensively over the last year,” Hermione said. “And there are no mentions of the archmagus’ in the lore at all. This is either a delusional fantasy, or Dumbledore brainwashed him to serve his own purpose.”
“I’m not insane,” Doge shouted. “Let me out of this chair, Croaker, I mean it.”
“I’m not Croaker,” Harry said as he stood and drew his stave.
“Then who are you?” Doge asked, his eyes widening in shock.
“I am Death, Elphias Doge, and your loyalty to Albus Dumbledore and his insanity makes you a threat to my plans.” The Killing Curse shot out of his stave without another word and struck the old man. Harry sighed and stowed his stave. “Mercy is appalling.”
Draco snorted. “Harry.”
“That’s the second time I’ve killed a crazy old wizard for their own good.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Put that foolish old man back where you found him. The DMLE will probably think he died of old age.”
“They’ll certainly write it off if nothing looks out of place.” Draco released the ropes. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, no, maybe. A zealot of any sort can be dangerous, so he had to go.” Harry waved a hand, and the light charms activated, illuminating the entire room. “The next person we catch and kill should really fucking have it coming is all I’m saying.”
“Molly!” Draco and Hermione said together then grinned at each other.
Harry rolled his eyes. “You know that evil cunt is crazy, too, right? I’d like someone just genuinely evil, you know. Evil but not crazy.”
“That’s a pretty tall order considering our environment,” Draco said with a sigh and turned to Hermione. “Ideas?”
She pursed her lips. “Yes.”
“Okay,” Harry said and dropped down in his chair. “Who?”
“Arthur Weasley.” She held up a hand when Harry started to protest. “Listen, Harry, if he’s in this, then he’s just a plain old dark bastard. He’s not crazy, you see, and yet he appeared to have no problem sitting beside his wife while she plotted our murders. You said he knew what was going on in the future and didn’t appear to be shocked to find Molly dead. I think he’s our best sane source of information and even if he never once was actively involved in Dumbledore’s plans—he knew about them and never interfered.”
“I have to agree.”
Harry frowned and ignored the sharp knot that formed in his gut. “Arthur Weasley it is. We’ll have to lure him out of the ministry tomorrow.”
“Agreed.” Draco held out his hand for the portkey that Hermione had crafted to return Doge to his house and left with the body.
Harry stayed where he was until Draco returned to the trunk. “Anything look out of place?”
“No, but there was an owl with a letter waiting in his window.” Draco pulled the letter out of his pocket and motioned toward the table. “It was that tiny little owl of Ron’s. I’ve already checked it for spells. At least that old crone isn’t cursing her own people.”
That was an odd thought, Harry mused. The very idea that the Order was now Molly’s exclusive domain really made him come close to regretting killing Dumbledore. Sort of. Not a lot, because Dumbledore was the author of many of the worst moments of Harry’s life and killing him had been immensely satisfying.
“What is it?” Harry questioned as he focused on his wife and found her frowning at the open letter.
“This woman has gone completely around the twist. Does she not even understand basic operational security?” She waved the letter. “This thing isn’t even spelled for secrecy. I’m beginning to see where Ron got his dumbness from.”
Harry laughed. “What does it say?”
She huffed and tossed herself into Harry’s chair. “E, please proceed with the review of all Wizengamot procedures required to challenge Harry’s title in case we have to neutralize his political power to gain physical control over him. I’ve prepared a list of healers at St. Mungo’s I have access to due to my small potion’s business and will choose one to act on our behalf regarding a mental competency hearing once Arthur has secured Minister Diggory’s full cooperation. Dumbledore’s attempts to control the minister met with difficulties, so we’ve decided to play on his emotional instability. He and Arthur have common ground now—they’ve both lost sons and Harry Potter is essentially to blame for those deaths. It won’t difficult to turn Amos’ grief into the desire for revenge—we won’t need any sort of magic to push him over the edge as he’s barely holding on mentally as is. Arthur will begin his campaign tomorrow. It shouldn’t take more than a few weeks to get Diggory worked up and ready to act on our behalf. Of course, we’ll want to wait until Potter defeats You-Know-Who. If he survives that, we’ll need to work fast to get control of him to reach Albus’ vision for Britain. –MW.” Hermione waved the letter in fury. “Dumbledore’s vision she says!”
“They must have used Fred’s death in the first timeline,” Harry murmured. “Arthur…you’re right, of course, Hermione, he’s clearly the most level-headed and on point of anyone left in the Order. If they didn’t resort to magic last time to turn Diggory against us, then they used Fred’s death which makes Arthur Weasley a cold-blooded son of a bitch.”
“Literally,” Draco said dryly. “His mother was a real piece of work, but then most of the Black family were utterly irredeemable.” He focused on Hermione. “At least she didn’t use their full names.”
“She used Ron’s crazy little owl to deliver the letter,” Hermione reminded hotly. “She’s a fucking moron, and I’m really furious! We let these bloody idiots run us out of Britain last time when we should’ve just….murdered them all!”
Harry took the letter from her hand and passed it Draco. “We should burn it in Doge’s fireplace, so no one will suspect it’s been read by anyone but Doge. There is no telling how much reach Arthur might have the DMLE even without Kingsley.”
“Right.” Draco sighed. “I hate that little house. If I have to go there again after this, I might just burn the fucker to the ground.” He disillusioned himself and apparated with a little pop.
Harry offered Hermione his hand and pulled her out of his chair. “Let’s go warm up some soup. The elves should be back soon with their reports, and we can start preparing our plan to kidnap Arthur Weasley.”
“I have a bunch of questions for that dumb bastard,” Hermione said darkly.
“You can make a list.”
“Don’t placate me, Harry Potter.”
“I’d never placate you with words, darling. My prick, yes. Words, no.”
“I’m not opposed to cock,” Hermione told him primly as he pulled her toward the kitchen.
Harry couldn’t help but laugh.
Arthur Weasley was so easy to lure out of the ministry that Harry wondered just how valuable the daft bastard was to Dumbledore’s cause. He leaned against the side of Flourish and Blotts until Arthur turned the corner and disappeared in a flash of portkey magic. Taking a move out of Dumbledore’s playbook, Harry had tailored the portkey to only work for Arthur Weasley. He’d put the flat disc on the ground and charmed it invisible then waited for Weasley to step on it. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. If he wasn’t full of malice over the whole situation, he might have been a little ashamed of himself.
He returned to the trunk and found that his spouses had already tied the red-headed wizard up in the chair though neither had bothered to wake him. They’d already decided to kill the man, so there was no need for theatrics. The interrogation room was lit, and Hermione was seated at a table in front of their prisoner with a long roll of parchment. He’d been sort of kidding about the list of questions, but Hermione had decided to make the most of their current hostage. He’d been a passive witness, at least, to a lot of the things both Dumbledore and Molly had done.
Harry jabbed his wand at Arthur, and the old wizard jolted away before the stinging curse fully landed. Arthur hissed and looked around in shock. “Harry…lad…what’s going on?”
“Oh, I think you know that already,” Harry said plainly. “I don’t have the patience for your dotty old wizard act, Arthur, and I’d just as soon torture you to death as talk to you.” He waved a hand. “Which is why my wife will be asking the questions.”
Arthur scowled briefly at Hermione before focusing on Harry. “And if I don’t want to talk to your wife?”
Harry grinned. “I’ll just kill you.”
“You don’t…” Arthur trailed off and frowned. “Would you?”
“Certainly,” Harry assured. “I swear it on my magic.” The oath settled and the old man gaped at him in surprise.
“But you’re…” Arthur frowned and flexed his arms against the chair. “Just a boy—Dumbledore said you were destined to protect the Light.”
“Hermione.” Harry inclined his head and walked away.
There’d been a very brief time in his life when he’d adored and trusted Arthur Weasley. Those feelings had been destroyed long before they came back in time, but it still hurt to see the man and know he was just as responsible for their grief as Dumbledore.
“Is Minerva McGonagall part of the Order of the Phoenix?”
“No.” Arthur frowned. “She had an argument with Albus and resigned—he forced her to make vows to never speak of Order business when she left. It was an ugly scene.” He pulled at his hands. “Is this some kind of…court chair? Like in the Wizengamot?”
Hermine made a note on her parchment. “It’s roughly a hundred times more powerful than the one in the Wizengamot. You cannot lie or evade any question posed to you so don’t bother trying. You’ll just give yourself a heart attack, or worse.”
“That’s illegal,” Arthur complained. “What have are you children doing? Where did you get this chair?”
“We made it, and we’re not children,” Harry said coldly. “And who cares if it is illegal? I know you don’t—you don’t give a fuck about the law or even about what is right or wrong.” He waved a hand when Hermione cleared her throat.
“Mr. Weasley, what do you know about Dumbledore’s plans to control Harry Potter?”
The older wizard’s face darkened as he tried to keep his mouth shut and his chest heaved in exertion.
“Imperio.” The spell left Draco’s stave with a bolt of light. He leaned down and whispered in the old man’s ear while the spell spun around him and the chair. “Arthur Weasley, you will answer every single question Hermione Potter asks of you.”
The spell tightened briefly, and Weasley gasped in shocked horror before it settled then his body relaxed. Harry nodded with approval, they wanted him to live long enough to tell them everything after all.
Arthur sagged in the chair, no longer able to strain against the spells. “Harry is marked by Zir and prophecy—it is important that he be guided down the proper path so that he can meet his fate. It is the duty of the Lux Ordinis to see that each archmagus born to us stays on true to their purpose.”’
“What is the Lux Ordinis?”
“A secret organization created to safeguard magic and the Light by ensuring the proper sacrifice of each light bearer who is born to us. It is our sacred duty to Lady Magic to ensure Zir’s influence over our world is subdued and controlled.”
“Why are you able to talk about such things with us?” Harry asked out of curiosity. “If it is so sacred a secret.”
“We must be able to recruit new followers,” Arthur said snidely, and Harry barely refrained from hitting him with another stinging hex.
“What vows did Dumbledore require of Minerva McGonagall?”
“She was forced to vow that she’d never tell anyone about the Order business—a vow on her life. Granted, she never knew much. Albus always said Minerva was too kind-hearted to do work for the greater good.”
“Evil son of a bitch,” Harry muttered.
Hermione frowned at Arthur Weasley. “You’re very disappointing, Mr. Weasley.”
“You’d have made a good wife for Ron,” Arthur returned. “We thought so from the start—then you went and whored yourself for Potter and Malfoy both. Molly’s furious about that—it ruined our plans to absorb your power and intellectual gifts into our family magic. It was the only value you had—even if you are a technically a half-blood. We have to make sacrifices, you see, every generation or so to keep our family magic strong.”
“Exceptions like Harry and me,” Hermione said flatly. “Forced into marrying your two youngest children. Does it bother you at all that it would’ve made Ginny and Ron rapists?”
Arthur shrugged. “Neither were good for much else—Ron was an idiot. I loved the boy but he was dumb and Ginny…well…a witch is only as good as the marriage she makes.”
“I want to go back in time and castrate you when you were still at Hogwarts,” Hermione informed him bluntly. “You foul old son of a bitch.”
“You don’t understand what is at stake,” Arthur said. “We work for the greater good.”
“The greater good?” Hermione repeated and laughed. “You insane, backward, ignorant fucker. What could you possibly know about good? How many children did Dumbledore murder over the years?”
“Oh, no, never murder—they have to want to die—you see. They have to sacrifice for us all. It’s the most important part,” Arthur said eagerly. “Some passed almost quietly with no notice all at all which is for the best. Fame is for those who genuinely deserve it and not for mere servants of the Light.”
“He has a dual purpose,” Arthur allowed. “He must kill Riddle because Riddle failed to follow his true path.”
“Tom Riddle hated you all,” Draco said from his place leaning on the side of Hermione’s chair. “He’d no more sacrifice himself for you then he would cut off his own bloody head. Dumbledore made a terrible mistake.”
“Yes, of course, but Riddle was his first…little lamb. He was heavy-handed, but Nicolas said that none of us are perfect and that they had to move forward from that failure.” Arthur smiled. “And Albus did, and despite the fact that Riddle lingered in the background fighting and sowing malcontent, the Order succeeded several times in guiding the children of Zir on the proper path. Then…there were three born within such a short time. Not all of us felt their births but some of the high-level magical users, like Albus, felt their disruption in the magical landscape of Britain.
“The Potter child was easy to find, and we discovered through Snape that Draco Malfoy was the second. The third remained elusive until the night she was sorted at Hogwarts. It was horrifying—a trinity of children born all wearing the mark of the Black Dragon. Albus worked so hard to keep them apart. That’s why he let the troll try to kill you in first year, you see, Hermione. He was just trying to spare you all the pain you’ll go through now when we destroy your marriage bond. It can’t be allowed to continue, and Harry must die for us. Of course, then we’ll have to focus on the two of you if you survive because you can’t be allowed to live either. It wouldn’t be good for the magical stability of our world. You have too much power.”
“Is Molly a devout follower of this insane cult?” Hermione questioned.
“Ah, no,” Arthur sighed. “My wife is far more concerned with money and power. It was easier when Albus’ was alive to keep the plan simple, but already members of the Lux Ordinis are backing away from her leadership of the Order of the Phoenix.”
“As the Order of the Phoenix always been a front for the Lux Ordinis?” Hermione frowned and wet her lips. Draco left her and went toward the kitchen area of the trunk and returned shortly with tea for their wife.
“No, there were other organizations in the past.”
“Are there members of the Order of the Phoenix who are not part of the older sect?”
“Arabella Figg and Mundungus Fletcher—the rest are dead,” Arthur said in a curious tone then he half-smiled. “Did you three kill them? That was quite naughty.”
Harry huffed. “For fuck’s sake, this arsehole is just as crazy as the others.”
“I’ve never met a zealot of any sort who’d I call sane, Harry,” Hermione said, but then she focused on Arthur once more. “Who are the members of Lux Ordinis?”
“Nicolas and Perenelle Flamel, John Dawlish, Molly, Sturgis Podmore, Ross Weasley, Albert Runcorn, Dedalus Diggle, Tobias Savage, William Prewett, Muriel Prewett, and myself.”
“Nicolas Flamel,” Hermione repeated. “He’s dead.”
“No,” Arthur began with a small laugh. “Nicolas is quite alive and so is his lovely wife.”
“Was the Philosopher’s Stone destroyed, Mr. Weasley?”
“Oh, no, it was just a replica at Hogwarts during your first year. Albus would’ve never risked Nicolas’ life that way. He must drink daily from the stone to survive.”
Hermione pursed her lips. “Who is the leader of the Lux Ordinis?”
“Nicolas, of course. He founded the Order in 1392.”
“How many of Zir’s children has Nicolas Flamel driven to suicide?”
Arthur shrugged. “I couldn’t say for certain—fifty or so.”
Hermione’s ragged breath made Harry’s stomach clench even as the horror of their true situation was revealed to them.
“What does Molly have planned for Harry?”
“If he is returned to us after his sacrifice, he’ll marry Ginny and give his money to us.”
“Do you know where Ginny is?” Hermione asked with a raised eyebrow.
“No, but she’s not dead—we’d know if she was due to family magic. We’ll find her and Harry will do what he’s told. It’s his duty. He’ll help us shape the wizarding world properly to protect us from Muggles.” Arthur smiled.
Harry flicked a hand toward the chair, and the ropes came loose just as he reached for Arthur Weasley’s robes. He dragged the older wizard out of the chair and shoved him against the wall. “I’m going to kill every single motherfucking one of you.”
“Harry, you must understand your role in the world!”
“You’ve declared yourselves my enemy, and you will receive no quarter,” Harry hissed, his magic flared out around him. “We will root you all out of your petty little world and burn your existence away until you are nothing more than goddamed dust.”
Fire swept up through the flare of his magic, and Arthur Weasley screamed for a few seconds before his body disintegrated, and the ashes of his bones fell to the floor.
Harry staggered back, and Draco caught him.
“Easy,” Draco murmured.
“I…I didn’t…” Harry huffed. “I really planned to make him suffer a bit longer than that.”
Hermione laughed and left the room. She returned with a small box that had been full of empty potion vials and gathered up the dust. “I’ll just send this along to Molly.” She sealed the box then with an amused grin she carved the mark of the Hallows in the wood with a flick of her wand. Then inscribed the words, the ashes of your husband are our gift to you.
Hermione focused on Draco. “We’re at war, and there is no need to be subtle with these fucking morons. They’ve been killing us for hundreds of years, Draco! I wonder how many time these dark sons of bitches have driven a version of Harry to his own death? Do you think that Zir marks a lot of souls? There can’t be that many of us, so they’ve been killing us over and over again because they’re fucking insane!”
“There are seven,” Zir said quietly as he appeared near the back of the trunk. He slid down the wall and sat on the floor.
“And you couldn’t tell us?” Harry demanded.
“I didn’t know at first,” Zir murmured. “I can’t be everywhere at once and when they were returned to me…their souls were cleansed and ready for their next life. Then Fate became involved, and I can’t interfere with Fate.”
“And Riddle is one of us?” Hermione questioned. “He’s…broken his soul.”
“He was once,” Zir admitted, his jaw clenching in fury. “But he has destroyed himself. When he finally crosses over—there will be little I can do for him. He was always the most volatile of you—harder to guide down the righteous path, but in this lifetime, Tom turned completely from my influence. I’m not sure I can save him from himself.”
“So we are six, now,” Draco said.
“No, you’re still seven,” Zir said. “Tom no longer bears my blessing, and he doesn’t care. In the other timeline, I’d already marked a new soul to return us to the proper number.” He held out his hands, and a pale yellow orb of light appeared between them. “He’s never had a name—a brand new soul.”
Hermione moved before Harry even realized what she intended. She hurried across the space and dropped to her knees in front of Zir, tears already sliding down her face. “My baby…”
“Yes, of course, your son,” Zir murmured. “Did you think I would let him go to someone else? He is here and when you’re ready, Hermione, I will give him back to you.”
Hermione reached out and touched the orb, light spun out around them and her shoulder’s relaxed. “He’s so happy.”
“I’m spoiling him rotten,” Zir admitted with a bright grin.
“How will you give him back?” Harry asked as he and Draco joined them on the floor. He didn’t reach out—he wasn’t sure he deserved to touch his son’s soul, but Draco didn’t hesitate.
“The soul will settle in the first new life that is created within Hermione’s womb,” Zir said and focused on Harry. “You did nothing wrong.”
“I…” He looked away from them, but even then the glow of his son’s eternal soul seemed to surround him. “I murdered him.”
“No, you didn’t,” Zir murmured. “That was done to him and your wife long before you did the ritual, Harry. There was nothing that could be done for either of them after Percy Weasley cursed her. He bears you no ill will.”
“So he understands what happened?” Harry asked. It was a horrifying thought.
“He is new, Harry, but in his current form is as mature as you are. He’s looking forward to being a child in this world and is very much convinced even now that he’d like a puppy.”
Harry laughed before he could help himself. “Zir.”
“I already said he could have one,” Zir admitted. “Not sorry.”
Harry took a deep breath and looked at them once more—Hermione was trailing her fingers delicately through the light of the orb and Draco was watching him. “I’m okay.”
“You don’t look it,” Draco said bluntly.
He took a deep breath and reached out for his son. The orb brightened and with a little swoosh left the frame of Zir’s hands. Harry took a deep breath as the orb nestled down his hand much like his little owl often did. It was agonizing and amazing all at the same time to hold his son. A part of him never thought he would. He knew that Hermione and Draco both believed that the baby was in Zir’s hands, but Harry had never allowed himself to believe it.
“Why didn’t he come back with us?” Harry questioned.
“I’m not exactly free to run around facilitating virgin births,” Zir said dryly. “Besides, it wouldn’t have been safe for him or Hermione. She’s physically mature enough to birth a child, but your circumstances aren’t so secure that pregnancy is a good idea. You’d have never been able to hide him from Dumbledore.”
“No, you’re right.” Harry took a deep breath then very carefully placed his son in Zir’s hands. “Thank you for keeping him safe.” He hesitated to withdraw his hand but did so quickly as if it would hurt less. It didn’t.
“You’re all my children, in the end, Harry,” Zir said gently. “Though I have to admit he feels different.” The elder god grinned. “Kind of like a grandson actually and that’s fun. I’ve never had one of those.”
Hermione sat back on her heels and wiped her face trembling fingers. “Can you tell us anything about the cult?”
“Nothing you can’t learn by interrogating the fuck out of Nicolas Flamel,” Zir said. “He won’t be difficult to locate—just follow John Dawlish.”
“Why John Dawlish?”
Zir inclined his head. “He’s Nicolas Flamel’s great-great-grandson and currently the only way the other members of that ridiculous little organization has of contacting him that I’m aware of.” He frowned. “I must go now, but I don’t wish to take your child from you so abruptly.”
Hermione smiled sadly. “It doesn’t matter how you do it, Zir, it’s still going to hurt. Just keep him safe and happy until we’re ready to bring him into the world.” She paused. “And maybe you could keep him as innocent as you can? He doesn’t need to know, yet, how terrible people can be.”
“I’ll do my best,” Zir murmured and disappeared.
Harry shot to his feet. “Let’s go pick a fight with Voldemort.”
“Cool,” Hermione said and stood. “We could burn down the Gaunt shack or the Riddle mansion…or…” She paused. “Take a full page ad out in the Daily Prophet letting him know we think he’s a piece of shite fraud.”
“Let’s do all three,” Draco decided. “There’s no need to limit ourselves or our enjoyment.”
“But first,” Harry began and focused on the box of Arthur Weasley’s ashes, “Winky!”
The elf popped into place in front of him. Winky was dressed in her little battle robe and sturdy combat boots. There was a black knit cap on her head. “Yes, Master Harry?”
“What are you up to?” Draco asked in amusement.
“I be ready for war—cause I likes babies and I wants Zir to give the baby back so I can be a nanny.” She crossed her arms. “I can be getting a bigger sack, Master Harry.”
Harry nodded. “Feel free to throw any marked Death Eater you can find in the nundu preserve. Though it would be nice if you shared with Dobby and let him throw some of them in a volcano.”
“I can share,” she agreed begrudgingly. “There be plenty of Death Munchers.”
“Great. Now, take that box and put it right in the middle of Molly Weasley’s dinner table. Don’t let her see you, of course, but if you could stick around watch her discover it—it could be fun.”
“Winky can do.” She summoned the box and disappeared with a pop.
“You just set two crazy house elves loose on the Death Eaters,” Hermione pointed out with a wry grin.
“It’ll certainly help the Nundu Preserves food budget for the summer.” Draco dropped down in the interrogator’s chair and hummed. “Let’s kidnap someone interesting next.”
“Like who?” Harry asked.
Draco hummed under his breath and stretched leisurely. “Tiberius Ogden.”
“Why?” Hermione questioned. She glanced toward the parchments they had spread out over her table. “He’s not a player on our board.”
“Thinking like that is a mistake,” Draco murmured. “We have to think ahead, Hermione, and Ogden is a powerhouse in the Wizengamot.”
“Sirius trusted him with the House of Black proxy,” Harry murmured. “In the future, he was never much a problem for us.”
“No, but he wasn’t a help either,” Hermione muttered. “None of them helped us Harry, and I guess Draco’s right—we need to know where they genuinely stand so we don’t get a nasty surprise sometime in the future. Which means we also need to hit the heads of other ministry departments—starting with the DMLE.”
“Yes.” Hermione nodded. “Then Croaker.”
He blew out a surprised breath. “You want to kidnap the Director of the Department of Mysteries? Is that a risk we can take? Unspeakables are heavily warded and trained to resist interrogation. Arthur Weasley was barely trained, and he looked close to having a stroke before Draco cursed him.”
“You’re more than capable of it, and Croaker thinks he’s untouchable.”
“Are we certain our cloaks will hide Zir’s magic on us?” Harry questioned.
“Your aura doesn’t even appear to be magical when your hood is up, Harry,” Draco murmured. “Which is disconcerting as fuck.”
Harry nodded. He trusted Draco’s mage sight and the fact that his Consort was probably the most advanced user of the art on the planet due to Zir’s influence. “Right. Maybe Bones, first? She’d be easier to find that Ogden.”
Dobby and Winky popped into the trunk at that point near the back. Winky snapped her fingers, and a chalkboard appeared. Each elf was given a column and two names appeared shortly after that—Hestia Jones for Dobby and Aberforth Dumbledore for Winky. Harry laughed and shared a startled look with Hermione.
“What are you guys doing?” Draco asked curiously.
“We be having a contest, Master Dragon,” Dobby announced. He turned to Winky and offered her his hand. “May the best arsehole win.”
Winky shook his hand, flipped the hood of her battle robe up, and they both popped away.
“Oh.” Hermione laughed. “Oh, no, that’s…”
“Funny as fuck,” Harry said wryly. “Let them play their terrible game, Mi. I did limit them to marked Death Eaters.”
“True.” Hermione nodded. “Well, let’s go figure out how to kidnap the head of the DMLE. She’s not going to be easier magically, you know. She’s very powerful and has had a lot of training.”
“Then she’ll be good practice for Croaker,” Draco announced as he walked over to stare at the elves’ scoreboard. “We’ll leave Ogden for later because he’s as bad as Moody when it comes to paranoia.”
“Don’t you dare put our names on that,” Harry ordered and sighed when his Consort grinned.
“It would just hurt their feelings—we have a substantial lead,” Hermione said primly. “Well, Harry does so we should probably work on catching up, Draco.” She shrugged when they both looked at her.
They knew very little about Amelia Bones as in the first timeline she’d died early on in the war. Harry wasn’t entirely certain when as she’d been a footnote for Dumbledore’s people and therefore even less to him. It galled him, how he’d allowed that old bastard and his followers to lead him straight toward suicide and a life of grief. They’d taken her from her own front step when she’d been fumbling with her wand to release the runic security on the door. She wasn’t an enemy, yet, so Draco and he had been extra careful with the older woman as they’d stunned her and portkeyed her into the operations trunk.
The Director of the DMLE woke as the interrogation chair’s ropes tightened around her chest and arms. Harry put the woman’s wand on the table between them. Since they didn’t intend on killing her and didn’t want to risk damaging her mentally with a memory charm, he was once more shrouded with a magical aura dampening cloak and a distortion spell over his face. The rest of the trunk was pitch black, and his spouses were silently watching in that darkness.
Bones looked around as her fingers curled against the arms of the chair. The ropes didn’t tighten even as her eyes darkened with anger.
“Impressive,” Harry murmured. “I’ve never been able to contain my magic’s response to my emotional state—not even after two decades of practice.”
Amelia lifted her chin slightly. “What do you want?”
“Answers, peace, safety,” Harry said and watched emotions drift over her face. “It’s interesting that you invest so much effort in controlling your magic’s response to your emotions, but you don’t seem to care what is stamped all over your face.”
“I don’t care if someone knows I’m angry,” she retorted. “Just get on with your questions—I’d like to be home for dinner during the summer.”
“What if I don’t like your answers?” Harry asked.
“You’ll just have to fuck off,” Bones said crossly and Harry couldn’t help but grin.
He relaxed back in his chair and threw one leg over the arm as he got comfortable. “What do you know about the Order of the Phoenix?”
She frowned. “I know that old fool Dumbledore ran it in the 70s and he probably tried to reform it before his death. I know that the Order got my brother killed. I doubt it’ll be much of anything without him around to lead people to their deaths.”
“What do you know about Lux Ordinis?”
Bones’ paled dramatically, and her breath caught audibly. “I…” She closed her eyes.
“Don’t fight the chair, Madam Bones, you’ll only hurt yourself,” Harry chided. “You know how they work, and I believe you know how powerful the one you’re sitting in is.”
“It’s ICW-level,” Bones murmured. “I can feel it. My grandfather was a member of the Lux Ordinis. He was recruited by Flamel himself, but he left during the upheaval in the 1920s. Grindelwald and Dumbledore were competing for control of the organization—each believed that they were the most suited to be Flamel’s protégé but ultimately Dumbledore won the old bastard’s favor, and Grindelwald was dismissed from the group.”
“Organization. Group.” Harry sighed. “Don’t you mean religious cult?”
Bones’ cheeks flushed red. “I don’t know the purpose of the Lux Ordinis as I’ve never been a member. My grandfather’s departure was viewed by the other families as a betrayal. I was honestly surprised when my brother, Edgar, was invited to join Dumbledore’s little vigilante group as the old bastard made it clear he had no time for our family.”
“What if I told you that the Order of the Phoenix was just one of many public fronts for Lux Ordinis? Granted, we’ve learned that not all of the members of the Order are allowed to join the sect—it’s a select group of profoundly insane people, actually. Your grandfather never spoke of their goals?”
“No. He refused to speak of any of it and avoided Dumbledore for the rest of his life.”
“What do you know about Harry Potter?”
Bones blew out a surprised breath. “I should’ve figured this was about that kid.” Bones let her head fall back against the chair. “What does a war mage want with a sixteen-year-old boy? He’s too damn young to fight and hopelessly immature. He went off and married two people just to piss off Dumbledore.”
“Do you suppose that was the only reason?”
“No, it’s obvious they have a profound magical bond,” Bones admitted reluctantly. “Parents all over Britain, of course, are probably cursing the three of them on a regular basis. The romance of it even turned my niece’s head, and I’ve always considered her quite level-headed. I made her swear she wouldn’t run off with some foolish witch or wizard and get married without me.” She sighed. “He’s still young too fight, and I hope you tell your superiors that at the ICW. Dumbledore did his damnedest to ruin that kid, and I don’t know why. His suicide has ensured I’ll never know for certain.”
“You said that like you think he didn’t kill himself,” Harry said with some amusement.
“I really bloody hope someone got the satisfaction of taking that old daft bugger out,” Bones snapped. Her hands flexed against the ropes as they shifted and she visibly relaxed her body in response. “Right. I’m pretty close to reaching my limit on being held hostage, lad, so finish up your questions.”
“Have you ever killed anyone for personal gain?”
“Not exactly.” She shrugged. “I was promoted to my current position because I killed a Death Eater in 1985 who had infiltrated Potter’s elementary school. We didn’t know where the kid lived until his Hogwarts letter went out, but it was the work of nothing to find his school. We watched him there the best we could with the budget we had. I received several commendations and promotion for taking out the assassin without a single Muggle being the wiser.”
Harry felt the odd urge to thank her but refrained. “And you couldn’t find the kid’s address at the school?”
“His records were obscured by an Official Secret, and our efforts to follow Potter home failed as well though we tried several times a year just in case Dumbledore had grown lax in his duties.”
“There are those in the ministry who didn’t believe the Potter boy should be raised in the Muggle world. He deserved better from us. If I’d had more power, I’d have sued Dumblefuck for custody.”
Draco snorted from somewhere behind him, and Harry sighed before returning his attention back to Bones. “Do you think Potter is a threat?”
“He’s a nearly seventeen-year-old wizard with two spouses—he’s probably too fucked out to be a threat to a puffskein.” She rolled her eyes.
“And years from now?”
“I hope he finds a career he likes and has a family—that’s what his parents would’ve wanted for him. It’s what I hope for my Susan. I think he’s no more a threat than any other person in love—we’d all do terrible and amazing things for our loved ones.”’
Harry agreed. He inclined his head, and a stunning spell hit Bones from the side. The trunk lit up as Harry activated the lights with the flick of his wand. Draco loosened the ropes and called for Winky.
The female elf appeared immediately, still dressed for war. Winky had a burlap sack braced over one shoulder—the tiny bundle was wiggling vigorously.
“Hmmm.” Harry took a deep breath. “Winky, what’s in the sack?”
Winky put the sack on the table and checked the knot before stepping back. “I be hunting for Dark Rat when I find the Dark Twat’s pet. I brings her.”
Harry’s mouth dropped open. “Winky…you have Nagini in that sack?”
“Fuck me,” Hermione snapped and dashed to the back of the room. She dumped out a dozen empty potion vials out of a box and hurried to the table with it.
Draco lifted the sack into the box, and they sealed it up with a bunch of charms.
Winky smiled winningly. “Happy Birthday, Master Harry.”
“It’s a whole month until my birthday,” Harry told her with a wry grin. “But thank you.”
She pursed her lips. “Sometimes the perfect gift just appear before you.” She trotted over to the board, waved her hand at it, then popped away with Madam Bones.
“Who did she put on the board?” Draco asked.
Hermione walked over to it. “Hmmm…they’ve both been a little busy. Dobby has added Walden Macnair, Humphrey Gibbon, and Damon Travers on his list. Winky’s new kills are Alecto Carrow, Amycus Carrow, Peter Pettigrew, and Corban Yaxley.”
“They’ve taken out seven Death Eaters in two days?” Harry questioned and waved a hand when Hermione started to speak. “I really regret my life choices in the previous timeline. We could’ve cleaned up shite a lot quicker if we’d found ourselves a half-dozen bloody thirsty house elves.”
* * * *
IS WORSHIP OF THE GOD HEPHAESTUS HAVING A COME BACK?
Harry groaned as he put down what amounted to the entertainment section of the Daily Prophet and stared pointedly at Dobby who was industriously eating a bowl of porridge. Hermione had read the article first and handed it to him with an amused grin. He sat back in his chair as Draco snatched the paper.
Dobby paused in reaching out for a sausage then snagged the meat anyway. “Yes, Master Harry?”
“Well…” Dobby drew the word out as if he were still working on whatever lie he planned to tell. “You see, Master Harry while throwing people in a volcano be lots of fun…it not be rewarding spiritually.”
“So you’re enriching your spirit,” Harry bit down on his lip to keep from laughing, “by sacrificing Death Eaters to Hephaestus?”
“Yep.” Dobby returned his attention to the porridge.
Harry turned to Draco and found his Consort’s cheeks were slightly pink, probably with the effort it was taking not to burst out laughing. “How are people finding out about his worship?”
“Any offering to an old god is automatically recorded in the Book of Sacrifices in Rome,” Draco told him and laughed a little. “Fortunately, it doesn’t actually list what is being sacrificed as that is considered a private matter.”
“Murder is terribly easy in the magical world, did you notice?” Hermione questioned as she stood from the table and stretched. “Let’s go set a trap for McGonagall’s fuck buddy.”
Harry made a face. “Hey, that’s my godmother you’re talking about!”
Hermione grinned. “You think they just sit by the fire and read poetry to each other? Maybe take walks in Muggle parks holding hands?”
“And picnics,” Harry added. “They have picnics on appropriately red and gold checkered blankets with all their clothes on.”
She grinned at him. “You’re ridiculous.”
Harry sighed as his wife kissed the top of his head and headed toward the bedroom, probably to get dressed. “Full armor today!”
“I know!” She called out in return. “Hopefully we’ll come across some arsehole on our list of people that needs killing!”
Draco leaned back in his chair. “Has it crossed your mind that she’s like, you know…”
“Our Bellatrix?” Harry questioned and grinned when Draco laughed. “Merlin, we can never even think that shite again. We’ll be on the couch for the next decade. She probably wouldn’t even let us fuck each other.”
“Let’s go do dark things, my Lord.”
Harry stood and grinned. “Yeah, let’s.”
* * * *
The basilisk hide robes that Winky had constructed seemed to practically mate with his magic, and when combined with Draco’s disillusionment charm Harry felt safe in a way he rarely had in his life. It was dangerous thinking, so he forced himself to be extra vigilant as he stood outside the Department of Mysteries and watched Unspeakables move in and out of the underground complex as they went about their day.
They were all hooded but, oddly, neither their cloaks or hoods truly hid their magical auras from him. He already knew that neither Draco or Hermione could see past the cloaks. Harry wondered if it was a quirk the Elder Wand had given him. His hand strayed to his sternum briefly before he dropped it with a scowl. He could almost hear Draco’s voice in his head telling him to get over it. In a way, he was relieved that the cloak had ended up in Draco—he’d have never wanted the Death Stick in his Consort. The Resurrection Stone’s history was just as obscured as the cloak’s so it was easier to accept that had become part of Hermione’s eternal soul.
The Elder Wand was the ultimate instrument of destruction, and it was better, for everyone involved, that it had merged with Death himself. His fingers cramped and he forced his hand to relax out of the fist he’d involuntarily clenched as he watched the man he’d heard several different people call Croaker leave the DOM for the fourth time since lunch. Considering the time of the day, Harry figured the man was done with work, so he fell in behind him.
The cloak of an Unspeakable was spell resistant so a simple stunning spell wouldn’t be enough to take the man down. Harry wasn’t interested in hurting Croaker, mostly for Minerva’s sake, so they’d decided to be very careful with him. They also weren’t sure how old he was, and none of them were on board with kicking an old man’s arse unless he turned out to be an evil git.
Croaker turned down a narrow hall that led to a bank of employee-only lifts, and Harry managed to slide into the car just as the doors shut. Vigilant or not, he was pretty damned confident in Draco’s disillusionment charm, so he was kind of horrified when he found himself face to face with the Head of the Unspeakables. Croaker poked him with a wand, it was weird watching the tip strike against his invisible chest.
“Give me one reason why I shouldn’t kill you.” He jabbed the wand again. “Well?”
Harry opened his mouth to respond but a splash of spellfire hit the wizard in the back, and he slid unconscious to the floor. He looked up as Draco ended his disillusionment charm. The mithril stave gleamed in his Consort’s hand. “Why did he see me and not you?”
“I was never in his line of sight,” Draco guessed. “Or he confused us and didn’t realize there were two of us following him. He can probably feel our ambient magic, and there isn’t a damn thing we can do about that. Thankfully very few magicals are capable of such a thing.” He knelt down, tied the rope they’d used to make the portkey to the trunk around Croaker’s wrist. “Let’s go.”
* * * *
They pulled three wands, a dimensional store, and four emergency portkeys off Croaker before securing him to the chair that would subdue his magic and force him to be truthful. Harry was honestly kind of worried about waking the canny bastard up, but they needed to know how big of a threat the Unspeakables were now and in the future. He did wonder though—if he was making himself an enemy just by kidnapping the man.
They shrouded the trunk in darkness and Harry double checked to make sure that his cloak was in place before he used his wand to wake Croaker up. The wizard shifted in the chair, fingers biting briefly into the wood but the ropes barely shifted. Harry honestly appreciated the level of magical competence both Bones and Croaker demonstrated.
“I’m surprised you didn’t remove my hood.”
“I wasn’t certain if there were security measures attached to it and I honestly have no interest in knowing what your real name is,” Harry said. “The only thing I care about, Croaker, are your loyalties and your intentions.”
“I’ve taken several vows on my life—I won’t reveal anything about the DOM or my people.”
“I don’t care about them specifically either,” Harry admitted. “As long as they stay out of my way and don’t make themselves a threat to me or mine then they will live to do their jobs. The same goes for you. I have a purpose in this world, and I won’t be prevented from walking my true path—not by anyone.”
“Such conviction is the burden of a young man,” Croaker said roughly. “I didn’t know the ICW was hiring wide-eyed idealists these days.”
“I’m not an idealist,” Harry murmured. “But that is neither here nor there—do you consider yourself a light wizard?”
“No, grey is a better description.”
“If your vows will allow it, tell me why you ignored the resurrection of the Voldemort.”
“Service as an Unspeakable requires an oath of loyalty to the British Ministry of Magic,’ Croaker said roughly. “Fudge ordered us to stand down and do nothing. I was relieved when he was killed, but Diggory is a fucking idiot and has no idea what’s coming.”
Harry snorted. “He’s certainly not using the press to his advantage—I was surprised that the Prophet never reported the Azkaban breakout in full. How many escaped in total?”
“Twenty-eight but they weren’t all Death Eaters,” Croaker admitted and tensed in the chair. “Strong fucking charms you’ve got on this chair—too strong. Your bosses know you’re using lethal verification spells on this mission?”
“My boss is aware of everything I do,” Harry responded evenly.
“Then you’re not working for the ICW,” Croaker surmised. “And not for Riddle.”
“How do you know that?”
“You’d have killed me in the lift if you were a Death Eater. And despite the circumstances, your magic feels clean and wholesome. Wholesome like a child’s which is bizarre.”
“You’re the first to sit in that chair not to fight it at all,” Harry pointed out.
“I promised my witch I wouldn’t get myself killed,” Croaker said roughly. “I’d rather not spend eternity getting berated for dying before she gives me permission.”
Harry grinned and was thankful for his hood since it would’ve totally destroyed the image he was working on. Being a broody dark wizard was turning out to be harder than just being a regular broody teenager. “Then we’ll try to keep you healthy while you’re with us. Have you ever killed for personal gain?”
“Have you ever killed for pleasure?”
“Is that not the same thing?” Croaker asked roughly.
“I suppose it depends on your perspective.”
“I’ve never set out to kill for pleasure,” Croaked began, “but there have been times when I felt a great deal of satisfaction after the fact. Some people just need to take a pass on living for the sake of the rest of us.”
Since Harry agreed, he merely nodded. “Did you know there is a prophecy concerning Harry Potter and Tom Riddle?”
“Yes, but I’ve never heard the contents. If I’d heard the contents, I would’ve vowed on my life to never reveal it. A prophecy is nothing to mess with and not something a smart man would want to betray in word or deed. When Fate steps forward, we must respect the path she puts before us.”
“And if we don’t?” Harry questioned.
“Then Magic will suffer—dark, light, and neutral alike. I offered to train Potter, but Dumbledore refused to allow it. He didn’t want his golden boy tarnished by working with the Unspeakables.”
Harry wondered how much the chair was impacting Croaker’s ability to keep his mouth shut. He certainly wasn’t stressing about the confinement or the truth spells that were pressing on his magic. “How can you tell the verification spells on the chair are lethal?”
“It feels dark as fuck,” Croaker said. “It’s an interesting situation since your magic might as well be cotton candy it’s so light. That’s why I didn’t kill you in the lift when I had the chance.” He huffed. “Didn’t know there were two of you.”
“Can you tell one wizard from another by using ambient magic?”
“You mean would I know you if I came across you in different circumstances?” Croaker asked. “No. Though ambient magic has told me a lot about you.”
“You’re married, magically mature so I’d put you in your 30s, you’re capable of an immense amount of wandless magic, you have an animagus form, and you were sorted into Gryffindor at Hogwarts.”
Harry shifted forward. “How did you know my house?”
“You slept under Minerva McGonagall’s magical protection for seven years in that ivory tower of hers. I could pick out her little lions blindfolded and half-unconscious. She’s spent decades putting charms all over that tower—to protect her cubs even in their sleep. Those protections will linger in your magic as long as you live.”
He wondered just how powerful McGonagall was and resolved to check out the tower when they went back to Hogwarts to figure out what his head of house was up to with the charms. “What do you know about the Lux Ordinis?”
“They’re a bunch of cowardly motherfuckers and if I ever get a complete, accurate list of who belongs to that foul organization—I’ll capture them all and cut off their fucking heads.”
Harry shifted in surprise. “I see. What do you know about their goals?”
“Their main goal appears to manipulate and control the distribution of magical power—selective breeding and manipulation are their tools of choice. Since the origin of the organization, they’ve sought to control and eventually see dead any witch or wizard born with what they consider too much magical power. Their goal is sacrifice and a bloody resurrection. As far as I know, they’ve never achieved the resurrection part of their plans. Dumbledore was a member. I don’t know who else—if I did they’d be dead because they’re a threat to Magic herself.”
“Zir stands in defense of Lady Magic,” Croaker snapped. “Who will defend our Lady if those bastards succeed in destroying his influence in this world?” He huffed and shifted in the chair—the ropes tightened abruptly. “The intent charms on this chair are for shite, you arsehole. It can’t tell the difference between my goddamned righteous indignation and hostility.”
Harry grinned. He no longer wondered why his godmother was shagging Croaker. The man was an utter bastard and seemed just like the sort Minerva would find interesting. She was a strong witch and certainly liked a challenge. Croaker delivered that in spades on the personality front. Harry stood from his chair, and a stunning spell hit their hostage.
She popped into the trunk. “Yes, Master Harry?”
Merlin help them, she had another sack tossed over her shoulder like some kind of tiny green female Santa Claus. “What’s in the sack?”
Winky scrunched up her nose. “Bait.”
“Bait…” Harry bit down on his lip. “Bait for who?”
“It be best if you not know, Master Harry,” Winky informed him. “But I promise to put the bait back where I be finding him when I be done.” She smiled and looked at Croaker.
“Right.” Harry sighed as Draco grabbed all of Croaker’s things and tucked all of it into the front of the man’s robe. “Take Croaker back to the ministry—leave him in his office, so he’ll be safe until he wakes up.”
She nodded, grabbed the Unspeakable’s arm and popped away with her bait and their former hostage.
The lights activated and Harry turned to Hermione. “I…think we might have a problem.”
Her mouth quirked up in a grin. “Don’t worry—when she runs out of Death Eaters we’ll just send her to clean out Knockturn Alley. That place is full of arseholes.”
“You okay?” Harry ran his hand down the length of his wife’s back, and she shifted closer to him.
“Sometimes I wonder if I’ve stopped being the woman you fell in love with.”
“Do you love me less than you did before?” Harry asked.
“No, of course not,” she said with a little huff and shifted her head on his shoulder. “It’s different now though—harder somehow and stronger. It was quiet before.”
“Quiet,” Harry repeated and nodded then pressed a kiss to her forehead. He glanced toward Draco who was sitting on the opposite side of the bed, reading. “Ignoring us, Dragon?”
“I’m utterly unwilling to have an emotional bloodletting in this bed,” Draco said without looking up from his reading. “If one of you wants to sit on my dick, let me know.”
Harry would’ve taken it as an invitation if his Consort’s mouth wasn’t lined with stress. It was odd, now, seeing such a stressed expression on Draco’s young face. The physical changes they’d faced coming back in time had been minimal since they’d landed in mature bodies. Granted, there had been a shift in hormones that as hard to ignore, but the emotional landscape of their relationship had blunted the baser parts of their sex life.
“What’s wrong?” Hermione questioned. She pulled up the bottom of her nightgown so she could move around and sit on her knees. “Draco?”
Draco pressed his lips together and put the book down on his lap. “The Lux Ordinis moved around in our lives the whole time, and we didn’t know. Flamel’s corrupt influence is everywhere if we only look. The fact that I never had a reason to look in the other timeline makes me furious. He moves through this world like a fucking disease.”
Harry reached over and picked up the book to check the title. “Magical Law & the Judiciary Responsibility by Wilbur Arnold Weasley.”
“Great grandfather of Arthur Weasley,” Hermione murmured. “A member of Lux Ordinis?”
“Certainly,” Draco said. “We need a real list of present and past members. They’ve been manipulating the world for hundreds of years, and the influence is far-reaching. Dumbledore’s role at the ICW tells us that. They used his fame and influence garnered from a manufactured war started by a Dark Lord they made. I’m not saying that Grindelwald was a victim, but he was certainly shaped into what he became by Flamel’s goals.”
“So we find out who they are and we destroy them,” Hermione said. “We lay waste to their plans and do everything we can to erase their legacy.”
“They’ve been manipulating the laws in Britain then?” Harry questioned.
“Yes, and more,” Draco said. “Social politics, spiritual belief systems. Flamel systematically destroyed the Druids in Britain and is directly responsible for crafting dozens of laws outlawing blood magic as he fostered the belief that all blood magic is dark. His corruptions appear to know no end.”
“What’s truly bothering you?” Harry questioned.
“I was raised by a master manipulator,” Draco said. “He taught me a lot about the world and how people could be made to do my bidding. Often he spoke of people as if they were nothing more than a herd of cattle. I enjoyed the lessons because I had his attention and there was little more in the world than I wanted at the time.” He sighed. “You saved me, you know.” He focused on Harry. “And I’m not talking about Azkaban.”
“Dragon…” Harry took a deep breath.
“The life my father wanted for me would’ve been the death of me, and I wonder…I just wonder where Flamel’s motivations and goals come from. Who shaped him? What shaped him? And why has he been allowed to continue for so long?” He took the book back and slipped from the bed. “I need to know everything, Harry. I just…I need to know.”
Harry watched Draco leave the bedroom, his chest tight with an anxiety that was not wholly his own. “I…” He turned to Hermione and found her eyes wet with unshed tears. “Hey.”
She offered him a wry smile. “You and your people-saving-thing.”
Harry laughed a little and slouched back on the bed. “What do we do?”
Hermione brushed tears from her eyes and took a deep breath as if to brace herself. “I guess we’re going to have to save the bloody world from these arseholes and use every single method available to us to get the information he needs.” She crawled out of bed and put her hands on her hips as she stared at him. “Let’s go fuck some people up.”
“Some would say we’ve been doing that for quite a while.”
She scoffed and tossed her braid over her shoulder. “I haven’t even gotten started on these motherfuckers.”
He laughed as she marched off toward the bathroom.
* * * *
“You’re really dumb,” Harry said conversationally as John Dawlish opened his eyes. “We’re in the middle of the war, and you don’t even have basic wards on your house. I’d say you were lucky I’m not a Death Eater, but frankly, you’d have been better off in their company.”
Dawlish’s head jerked as he looked around him—trying to see into the inky darkness that surrounded them both. “Where am I? How do I know you’re not lying about a Death Eater?”
“I don’t care if you think I’m lying or not,” Harry told him. “And we’re in a trunk that I’m using for my base of operations.” He propped his chin on one hand as he settled down in his chair. “I wasn’t aware that Nicolas Flamel had any children to live to produce children, but then I heard about you. You descend from a daughter, born a squib and hidden away in the Muggle world.”
“I…” Dawlish’s hands flexed against the restraints, and his face darkened with strain.
“Fighting the chair will only get you killed,” Harry murmured. “And there was no question in that—I know all of that to be a fact. I do, of course, have questions. And you have no choice but to supply the answers.”
“You will,” Harry assured. “One way or another.”
Dawlish frowned. “You work with the ICW? It’s against their charter to mistreat or torture prisoners. This chair…it’s not legal to use this on prisoners.”
“I don’t work for the ICW,” Harry informed him. “I wonder why people keep making that assumption.” He leaned forward slightly, knowing the minimal light would make the masking charms on his face glint in a rather horrific manner. “Do you know?”
Dawlish wet his lips. “There are operatives in Britain working for the ICW. They’re hunting You-Know-Who and Potter.”
“Because of the prophecy,” Dawlish said. “Diggory told the ICW that Potter is prophesied to defeat the Dark Lord. The ICW is here to help that brat and to make sure he succeeds.”
“What did Lord Potter ever do to you? You obviously don’t like him at all.”
“He shouldn’t be alive,” Dawlish growled. “They should’ve killed him in 1981 before anyone realized he’d survived the Killing Curse. But Dumbledore let him live, let him grow up and gain power. It was an idiotic mistake.” He jerked against the chair, and his features darkened red before he slumped down in the chair. “I’m going to file a complaint with the ICW about your tactics.”
Harry rolled his eyes and wondered if he could be accused of impersonating an employee of the ICW based on the assumptions of a bunch of idiots. “Who are the members of the Lux Ordinis?”
Dawlish’s eyes bulged with shock, and he jerked violently in the chair. “How did you…”
“Who are they?” Harry demanded at a near shout. “Tell me every single name!”
The Imperius Curse bolted out of the darkness and hit Dawlish. Draco moved in the shadows behind the chair and ordered in a low tone, “Tell him everything he wants to know.”
Dawlish shuddered and tried to fight the curse, but the combination of the curse and the chair was more than he could manage. “Nicolas Flamel, Perenelle Flamel, Pius Thicknesse, Amos Diggory, Molly Weasley, Sturgis Podmore, Ross Weasley, Albert Runcorn, Dedalus Diggle, Muriel Prewett, William Prewett, Tobias Savage, and Montgomery Fawley.”
“Not Minerva McGonagall?”
Dawlish snorted. “No, that bleeding heart? Dumbledore was never foolish enough to try to recruit her for our true purpose.”
“What is your true purpose?” Harry asked curiously.
“We guard the balance,” Dawlish declared pompously, and Harry had an overwhelming desire to cut the man’s head off. “It is our sacred duty to protect Magic.”
It was honestly kind of painful to be in the presence of someone so utterly stupid. The fact that Dawlish was utterly honest was disconcerting—Harry had rarely encountered anyone so indoctrinated into a cause that they could lie to themselves so thoroughly that the lie became the truth. He turned and focused on the spot where he knew his wife was standing. “Is this Stockholm Syndrome?”
“A variation surely,” Hermione said. The distortion on her voice was disconcerting, but Harry pushed that aside. “He’s a true believer, and there is honestly nothing more dangerous in the world. It’s the makings of a martyr.”
“Suicide bomber,” Harry murmured.
“Certainly,” she agreed. “He won’t question orders or the decisions of anyone above him in the organization. Moreover, he feels righteous in his beliefs and no punishment will dissuade him.”
Harry focused on Dawlish and found the man frowning. “Are Nicolas and Perenelle Flamel in Britain?”
Dawlish took a deep breath. “Yes. After Dumbledore’s death, they came back to Britain to oversee the current operation.”
“What is the current operation?”
“Potter has to meet the prophecy and defeat the Dark Lord. He must kill himself because he’s carrying a horcrux. There is some hope that he’ll fulfill the ancient prophecy promising the resurrection of an archmagus.”
“Which would do what?” Harry questioned.
“Renew magic and restore the balance permanently.”
“What disturbed the balance in the past? Why does the Lux Ordinis exist?”
Dawlish closed his eyes briefly and took a deep, shuddery breath. “The death of Ewan Flamel.”
“Who was Ewan Flamel?”
“The son—Nicolas’ son. The boy killed himself because he couldn’t meet the burdens placed on him by magic.”
“Was Ewan an archmagus?” Harry asked quietly even as his magic stirred in his core.
“Yes,” Dawlish admitted roughly.
Harry drew his wand and stunned the man without another word. He lurched out of the chair, his magic shuddering with loss and fury.
“Harry?” Draco caught him by the shoulders. “Love?”
“It was…” Harry closed his eyes. “You’re Ewan. It was you.” He just lowered his gaze as his hood was pushed back and the masking magic fell away. “Dragon.”
“Talk to us,” Hermione said as she rubbed his back.
“The moment Dawlish said his name I was overwhelmed with grief,” Harry said. “It was like…I felt the same during the ritual when I rendered your souls. It hurt so much, and I thought I’d gotten past to it because we’re here together and that’s everything.”
“It feels like an old, enduring hurt,” Harry confessed. “It feels like I’ve been living with this pain for hundreds of years.”
“And you have,” Zir said as he stepped into the light. “I’m sorry, Harry.”
“Zir…” Harry took a deep breath. “You said you linked Draco and me to give me balance.” He pulled free of his spouses. “Tell me what happened to Ewan Flamel.”
“He was born a year after you in that lifetime—he’d lived many lives before that one, but none of them had been truly fulfilling. He did his duty to magic, of course, and was faithful in his devotion to me.” Zir walked around them as he spoke. “When the two of you met, the attraction was magnetic. I knew it would be. It would be the first time the two of you shared a life together, and I was so enthralled by your love that I grew to believe he would provide you the balance you needed for eternity. Eventually, I would realize that you both needed more and…”
“You linked us to Hermione’s soul,” Harry supplied. “What happened to Ewan?”
“His father tried to force him to marry a woman named Fionn. To escape the situation, Ewan tried to run away, but Flamel had a lot of social power at the time. When Ewan was dragged home…” Zir sighed. “He killed himself. I lost track of the Flamels after that—despite what many would like to believe I’m not all-knowing or all-seeing. If I’d known the depth of their depravity, Britain would’ve never again known the gift of an archmagus.”
“I doubt that version of me was all that forgiving regarding Ewan’s death,” Harry said. “Why is Flamel still alive?”
“Your grief crippled you,” Zir said gently as if he were speaking to a child. “I couldn’t allow you to suffer like that, Harry, so I took you from that life six days after Ewan was discovered dead. You went to sleep and woke up in my embrace—the same embrace that currently nurtures your son.”
“If you can do that…why did you have us kill Dumbledore?” Draco demanded. “You could take out all of these bastards for us!”
“I can’t,” Zir snapped. “My ability to influence this world is reduced to the seven of you, and currently you are only three that can…my other children are very young. The oldest of them is just four.”
“Are they safe?” Harry demanded. “They’re not here in Britain, right?”
Zir took a deep breath. “One is Canada—a girl born just six weeks ago. The two boys are three and four. One is in Japan, and the other in Brazil. I chose their families carefully, and they’re all devout followers. They also all know that I’ve gifted them personally with very special children. I’ve learned from my mistakes since the night…since the night your parents were killed, Harry.”
“What would you have me do, my Lord?” Harry questioned.
“Kill Flamel,” Zir said shortly. “Kill every single one of them. Move hard and fast—give them no quarter and spare no one. Make this world safe for your son, Harry so I can return him to you.”
Zir snapped away with a swirl of magic.
Harry drew his wand and pointed it at Dawlish. He woke the man with a hard jab of magic and leaned down in his face. “Where the fuck is Nicolas Flamel?”
* * * *
They’d dosed Dawlish with a surgical sedative and dumped him in one of the cells they’d created in the trunk for prisoners. Killing him was definitely on Harry’s ‘to-do’ list, but they wanted to make sure that the Flamels were in their grasp before they extinguished the only genuine link to they had to the Lux Ordinis. They’d decided that eliminating the Flamels would take center stage as the others in the sect would be much easier to get to after the fact. They didn’t want the Flamels to go to ground and they certainly would if their entire group was specifically targeted.
Getting ahold of Albert Runcorn was proving to be extremely difficult as the man worked in the Department of Mysteries and Croaker had locked that place down after his own kidnapping. Runcorn used a private floo connection to enter and leave the ministry. He also rarely went anywhere but home or work. They’d picked Runcorn for the next interrogation because he was a wild card and he was close to Molly Weasley.
Harry sat down at the breakfast table, and before he could fill his plate, Draco put a copy of the paper down in front of him.
HOGWARTS STUDENT, VINCENT CRABBE, RETURNED TO HIS MOTHER AFTER A MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE FROM DIAGON ALLEY.
He sighed. “Well, at least we know who Winky’s bait was.” A glance toward the scoreboard revealed that Winky had added Nigel Parkinson and Vincent Crabbe, Sr to her list. Dobby had taken out the Harold Jugson, Elias Selwyn, and Rodolphus Lestrange. Harry set aside the paper and loaded his plate up with some pancakes and bacon. The two house elves appeared on the opposite side of the table and took their chairs.
“Tired?” Harry questioned.
Dobby stretched and yawned. “Just woke up, Master Harry. I’ve been picking out a new volcano.”
Harry exchanged a look with Hermione who looked too amused by the very idea of that. “Why did you take Lestrange from ministry custody?”
“Like they can keep Death Eaters in prison,” Dobby said with a huff and shoved half a sausage in his mouth.
That was true enough, so he focused on Winky who was cutting up her pancakes into little squares. “Winky, why did you let Vincent Crabbe, Jr go?”
“He be big baby,” Winky said. “He not Death Eater, Master Harry, just stupid and scared kid. He barely have enough magic to clean his teeth, ya know.”
“True enough,” Draco murmured. “I always thought that his parents bought his way into Hogwarts to avoid him being labeled a squib. He’s right on the cusp of not being able to use a wand. In fact, he didn’t even get his wand in Britain—his parents took him to Bulgaria to have a wand made.”
“Why Bulgaria?” Hermione questioned as the elves finished eating and popped away to begin their workday.
“Wand laws are different in Bulgaria, and less magical people often need a wand that will help them hide it. For most of us, a wand is little more than a guide to focus our magic. Crabbe’s wand is practically the boss of him.”
“Someone needs to be,” Harry said dryly and concentrated on his breakfast. “I think our best way of capturing Runcorn is to wait for him to go the Burrow again. We need to figure out what sort of memorial service Molly’s going to have for Arthur.” He frowned and concentrated on the paper. “Is there an announcement of any sort regarding that?”
“None,” Draco said. “I don’t think she’s told the ministry that her husband is dead or Diggory has decided to keep it a secret.” He paused. “Can I say I’m relieved that he’s part of the Lux Ordinis? I wonder when he joined them.”
“We need to question him more thoroughly before we take another member of the sect. If Flamel is smart, then no single member knows everything he knows. Dawlish is an idiot, so I can’t think that he was trusted with a great deal. Considering Molly’s temperament, I don’t think she’d have all the operational details either.”
“My bet is on Runcorn and Tobias Savage,” Draco said. “Runcorn because he’s an Unspeakable and Savage because he has a seat on the Wizengamot. Flamel doesn’t appear in public so he needs operatives that can work for him—shape the law and the like. That means Savage is in deeper than a low-level auror like Dawlish even if they have made him their Secret Keeper.”
“He’s expendable,” Harry said. “And they’re arrogant as fuck—he hadn’t taken a single vow of secrecy that I could tell. Is that the belief that his blood connection will keep him loyal?”
“I think it’s a side effect of the fact that they’ve operated for so long without facing a single ramification.”
“I’m going to ram a fuckton of ramifications down Flamel’s throat,” Harry said sharply and huffed when his wife just smiled indulgently. “Don’t look at me like I’m a puppy.”
“You’d be an adorable puppy,” Draco said and grinned when Hermione laughed. “Adorable and feisty.”
“I know this delicious fact about you,” Draco admitted with a wink and stood. “I’ll prep the chair for Dawlish and renew the Imperius on him, so I can give him some specific instructions regarding the next phase of questioning.”
Harry finished his pancakes in silence and wasn’t all that surprised when Hermione slipped into his lap as soon as he put down his fork. “Hey.”
She touched his jaw, rubbed her thumb through stubble. “Don’t shave.”
“Miss the beard?”
“Yes, I need…a little normal from you.” She flushed.
“And that’s a beard?” Harry asked with some amusement.
“You wore it for five years, Harry, so yeah…it would be nice to look at you and see the man I married versus the boy I followed into war when I was seventeen.” Her eyes dampened with tears. “That’s silly.”
He caught her hand and pressed it to his heart. “You’ve rarely been silly in your life. I get it—getting used to our younger appearances has taken some time for me as well. But please remember that I may look like that boy, but I am the man you married. That boy was easily led, too trusting, and so foolish that he stepped aside so his so-called best mate could have the witch they both wanted.”
She frowned and looked at her hand still pressed to his chest. With a shuddery breath, she curled his fingers into his shirt. “I wish you’d asked me what I wanted because if I’d had to choose between you and Ron then, I’d have chosen you. This isn’t hindsight talking, Harry. Ron was never competition for you. I just settled on him to stay close—because I thought you were going to marry Ginny then you married Draco out of the blue and announced it to the Wizengamot like it was a perfectly expected thing for you to do.”
Harry laughed. “Their faces…Merlin…I treasure that memory.”
“It was quite entertaining,” Draco said dryly. “My own father looked like he might stroke out.” He leaned on the partition that separated they’d put up to isolate the cells from the rest of the trunk. Currently, only one cell was occupied, but they’d made six just in case. “I gave him some pancakes and juice. He ate it but bitched about being potioned the whole time. I made it clear that he was so damn simple that potions were completely unnecessary.” He focused on them and frowned slightly. “Something wrong?”
“No, just me being silly about the beard,” Hermione admitted with a laugh.
“I don’t know what I miss more—the beard or his dick,” Draco confided and laughed when Harry huffed dramatically. “It’s a toss-up, really.”
* * * *
Dawlish was glaring at him when Harry sat down at the table in front of him. Hermione had set up a transcription quill without speaking directly to the auror.
“I knew you were dark.”
“I knew you were a dumb arse,” Harry returned evenly. “All of those accusations and you never once bothered to gather any real evidence. I mean, we were careful, but we needn’t have bothered since you didn’t bother to look for fingerprints or DNA.” He waved a hand at Dawlish’s confused face. “I’m not going to educate you. You’re going to have a long morning, John, and how painful it is will depend entirely on you. You already know you can’t fight the chair you’re sitting in without dying painfully for it.”
“Did you kill Dumbledore?” Dawlish demanded.
Harry grinned. He couldn’t help it. “Yeah, I did. It was amazing—I killed Grindelwald, too. Dumbledore took me out of Hogwarts so he could gain control of me but you already know that, don’t you, Auror Dawlish?”
“He underestimated you,” Dawlish muttered. “We warned him, but he was arrogant where you were concerned. Dumbledore was so positive he could regain control of you. What about Snape?”
“Oh that was me,” Draco said with a smirk as he moved the table in a lazy, predatory circle. “I regret killing him so quickly, but we knew better than to give him a chance to fight back.”
“Cowards,” Dawlish growled. “Working in the shadows like assassins.”
“You made war on me, Dawlish. I never promised to fight fair,” Harry returned evenly. “And I don’t care what you think of our methods either. Now that Dumbledore is dead, who is leading the Lux Ordinis in the field? Who’s making decisions for Flamel?”
Dawlish frowned. “There is some…hostility about it. Molly Weasley was Dumbledore’s second-in-command, but she’s gone off the rails. She’s lost all of her loyal children and Arthur. The rest of us are worried she’d expose the genuine purpose of the Order and Grandfather can’t allow that. But he doesn’t know…about you.” The man’s gaze drifted from Draco to Hermione. “Dumbledore should’ve killed the two of you in your first year. He thought he had enough control over Potter to prevent the three of you from having any sort of relationship. It wasn’t until the marriage was announced that he realized he’d failed. He never found out you managed to hide so much from him.”
“Oh, he knows now,” Harry said with a smirk. “Not that it’s doing him any good. His next adventure isn’t so great, to be honest.” He flicked his wand out of his bracelet and twirled it through his fingers gently. “Did you know that before you can be welcomed into the embrace of our Lady Magic, you must face judgment before her protector and husband, Zirnitra?”
“No…that’s not…that’s just a myth,” Dawlish said hoarsely.
“Oh, I assure you, John Dawlish, it is no myth. You will answer for your crimes before Zir, and he will decide if your soul is worthy of entering his wife’s realm. If it is not—you’ll be thrown back down here in a new body to try again. Well, most souls are returned to Earth to try again. There are exceptions, you see. Perhaps you’ll be one of them.”
“What…happens to the exceptions?”
Harry shrugged. “I guess it’s kind of like hell. Do you know what hell is?”
“I…yes.” Dawlish shuddered. “What happens in this magical hell?”
“An eternity of servitude surrounded by the very worst of our kind. Perhaps you’ll share a task with Voldemort himself. You’ll be bound, regardless, to the will of Zir and not to put too fine a point on it but he’s utterly furious with you and the rest of the Lux Ordinis. The afterlife is going to suck for you, and I don’t even feel sorry for you.”
“You’re dark!” Dawlish burst out. “You’ve murdered people! You’re the one who will suffer.”
Harry just stared at him. “Molly thinks she’s in charge but who’s really calling the shots within the sect when Flamel isn’t around?”
“Sturgis Podmore,” Dawlish ground out through clenched teeth. “But Tobias Savage is already starting to undermine that authority—he recruited Amos Diggory and Grandfather was very pleased to get the sitting Minister for Magic to join our cause willingly.”
“The Minister’s power isn’t infinite,” Harry pointed out.
“No, but he hates you, and that’s enough for what is to come. You have to do your duty, boy or Magic will suffer.”
“You don’t actually believe that bullshit about the magical power balance, right?”
“It’s true,” Dawlish exclaimed hotly. “I saw the records—I saw Ewan’s last words to his father in a memory.”
“What were Ewan Flamel’s last words?” Harry demanded.
“He’d taken poison,” Dawlish explained roughly. “Grandfather found him—but it was too late to save him. Ewan told him that it was his destiny to guard the balance.”
Harry wondered if he was going to end up permanently homicidal. It was a concerning thought, so he turned to Hermione. “Could I just go completely off the rails and end up being in a permanent mood to kill someone?”
She laughed and shrugged. “We’ll try to keep you focused on people who deserve it.” Her gaze flicked toward Dawlish. “From experience, I can tell you that you’ll have plenty of targets.”
Harry sighed. “Who is the most dangerous of the all of the members of the Lux Ordinis? Flamel?”
Dawlish snorted. “No, Grandfather has no magical combat experience to speak of. He’s an academic. Savage is the most highly trained, but Molly Weasley is powerful and ruthless. I wouldn’t turn my back on either of them.”
“Political power, sure, but Savage is leading him around by the nose. It was to be Arthur’s job, but he was killed. Molly hasn’t explained how.” He raised an eyebrow.
Harry smirked. “Yeah, that was me, too. I lost my temper a bit.”
“Are you going to kill me?”
“Yes, of course, I am,” Harry said mildly and raised an eyebrow when Dawlish paled. “But it’ll be painless if you continue to cooperate.”
“You can’t just…” Dawlish trailed off, and he took a deep breath.
“You brought this on yourself,” Draco said slyly from where he leaned against one wall. “You made us your enemy, John Dawlish, when you joined the Lux Ordinis. Just how long did you think such a thing could exist without repercussions? Do you have any idea how many people your grandfather’s sect has driven to suicide? Do you even understand why?”
“They must meet their destiny,” Dawlish snapped at a near shout. “You all must meet your destiny to benefit the rest of us. Don’t you see? It’s your duty to maintain the balance!”
Draco’s face darkened with fury, and he averted his gaze.
“When is the next meeting of the Lux Ordinis and will Flamel be there?”
“It’s at the Burrow, tomorrow night,” Dawlish ground out as he strained to keep the information to himself. “No, my grandfather has no intention of leaving Dumbledore’s estate in Godric’s Hollow.”
“Have you told anyone else the secret of your grandfather’s location?”
“No one is allowed to know but me,” Dawlish growled. “I should’ve taken an unbreakable vow.”
“Yes, you should’ve,” Harry agreed. “You don’t have a lot of common sense—most magicals don’t so don’t feel too bad about it. What does the sect currently plan for me?”
“They’re going to capture your wife and use the Imperious Curse to force to kill herself,” Dawlish said with a grin as if that plan were still viable. “They figure it will drive you and Malfoy mental. They’re going to blame Voldemort so the two of you will focus your energy on killing the Death Eaters. Then when that’s done, and you’ve sacrificed yourself to defeat Voldemort—they’ll use grief and guilt to get Malfoy to kill himself. Your willing sacrifice is important, but neither of them should be allowed to live. There are too many of you alive at once—it’s bad for the balance.”
Harry laughed. “There are six of us alive in this world right now—seven if you count Tom Riddle.” He paused when Dawlish paled. “You’re a fucking idiot. Did you think an archmagus can only be born in Britain? Is that a function of bigotry or isolation? There is always an archmagus here, you idiot, that’s how we provide balance to magic. Ewan Flamel was probably born again within days committing suicide.”
“But that’s…seven of you?”
Draco shot forward from his place and leaned down in Dawlish face. “Just seven. Another soul has already been chosen to replace Riddle.” He laughed, cold and hard. “Tell me, John, how is your grandfather going to react when he discovers that he’s repeatedly driven the soul of his only son to kill himself? This whole mythology he built—it was just to punish Magic and Zir for the death of his son. You realize that right? His prejudice drove Ewan to kill himself, and Flamel has been seeking revenge for hundreds of years.”
“But…” Dawlish paled.
“I’m the reborn Ewan,” Draco hissed against the shell of Dawlish’s ear. “And I’ll tell that son of a bitch Flamel that before I kill him. You shouldn’t doubt it, John, I’m going to butcher Nicolas Flamel. It’ll make the curse I used on Percy Weasley seem like a mercy.”
“Sometimes it took decades,” John protested. “They lived full lives and had children…one even lived past his one-hundredth birthday before he was called upon to die for Magic.”
“No!” Harry shouted and slammed a fist on the table between them. “They never died for Magic! They died because Nicolas Flamel is a vicious old bigot who’ll never get over the fact that his son was gay for fuck’s sake!” He stood abruptly. “Mi, can we learn anything more useful from this piece of shite?”
“I doubt it. I do worry that his life force is being monitored by Flamel and I’m not sure I believe that he’s the only one that knows for certain where the Flamels are living. After all, he isn’t magically robust enough to perform the Fidelius charm, and the Flamels couldn’t do it to themselves. If they came to Britain after Dumbledore died then someone else performed the charm.” She poked Dawlish with her wand. “Who was that and do they know the secret?”
“Podmore did the charm, and no he doesn’t know the secret.” He frowned at her.
“Are you certain? Did your grandfather have you write the secret down?”
“Yes, of course, he did,” Dawlish snapped.
“So he could’ve handed that piece of paper to anyone,” Draco pointed out dryly. “What about your parents?”
“They’re both dead, and the rest of my relatives are Muggles—they don’t pose a threat to you.”
“Don’t worry if I was going to start killing Muggles—it would be a decade or more before I got around to killing your relatives,” Harry said dryly. “This planet is full of fuckers who need killing.”
“You can’t just kill people…” Dawlish frowned. “Be reasonable.”
“I can kill anyone I like,” Harry told him gently. “Don’t you get it, Dawlish? I’m hell and gone past caring about breaking the law.” He tossed his feet up on the corner of the table. “Do you read the Quibbler?”
“Of course not.”
“You should’ve—they’ve been telling everyone for months exactly what is going on.”
“You mean that Master of Death, crap?” Dawlish laughed. “Right.”
“Well, they got the title a little wrong, but that’s not their fault—mythology and truth can blend together in a variety of ways.” He shrugged when Dawlish laughed again. “Shortly, you’ll know the truth of it, but it will be far too late to do anything about it. The fact is that your magical existence has been damned since you joined the Lux Ordinis. There is no redemption waiting for you.”
“I’ve served Lady Magic my whole life,” John said quietly, conviction resonating in his voice. “You’ll not convince me otherwise.”
“True believer,” Hermione murmured as she turned to Draco. “Draught of Living Death will work well enough for the moment. When it no longer matters, we’ll have Dobby dispose of the body.”
Harry stunned Dawlish before he had time to protest. “Sound plan, but let’s keep his body in the cell just to be safe.”
* * * *
Harry was lounging, invisible, on a hill not far from Dumbledore’s former home. He and Draco had spent the afternoon building a containment ward around the property—one designed to keep the Flamels contained once they breached the actual wards that protected the house. It was complicated work, but Harry had learned to do it when he’d worked for the ICW and carving the ward stones had been the work of just a few hours. The activation stone was in his pocket, and once it was dropped into place, the ward net would activate essentially trapping his targets in a magical prison they could not escape because they’d never find the ward stones. Moreover, the progenitor of this particular capture-system was still studying at the International Academy of Magic and hadn’t invented it, yet. One couldn’t prepare for something they didn’t know existed.
“They’re both inside,” Draco reported as he sat down beside Harry on the hill. “What are you thinking about? You feel all broody.”
Harry laughed. “You can’t feel me brooding.”
“The air you’re occupying currently looks broody,” Draco announced. “Speak, or I’ll tell Hermione.”
“Earlier I was pondering time travel. I wonder how many other people have traveled through time to fix some wrong done to them?”
“I’d say it’s very rare,” Draco said. “Objects of power like we used are hard to come by, and only an archmagus would have the ability to create one for that purpose. So if anyone besides us has ever done it, then it was one of Zir’s other children. Or perhaps a version of us but even then our ability to do it is governed by him. If he hadn’t wanted us to go back and time and fix this mess, then the ritual would’ve killed you.”
“Right.” Harry nodded and took a deep breath. “I think I knew about Zir before he ever revealed himself to us. I’ve felt guided my whole life.”
“I have as well,” Draco admitted.
“Why did Riddle turn from that guidance? Why didn’t Zir protect him from Dumbledore? Why didn’t he protect us from the Lux Ordinis?”
“His ability to impact anything on this plane is very limited,” Draco said. “I’ve never seen him interact physically with anything or anyone but us. I’ve been doing some research—Riddle was the only one of us here until my birth. There were no records of any for a least twenty years before his birth as well. Time passes differently for Zir, we have to acknowledge that he really doesn’t know or see everything. He’s powerful magically in his own realm but in ours—his power is reduced to a belief system outside of special circumstances.”
“That’s really bloody annoying,” Harry pointed out.
“Yes, well, perspective is everything. If Zir could interact with magicals on the level most believe, then he would have no need for us.”
“I’m not opposed to living a normal life,” Harry pointed out dryly. “With you and Hermione and a bunch of kids that are too loud and too messy.”
“Don’t tell her but I wouldn’t mind fielding a Quidditch team.” Harry grinned at the snort that drew out of his consort.
Draco’s hand slid into his. “Maybe we can talk her into adopting as well.” His Consort shifted closer until their bodies were pressed together and lips pressed against his knuckles. “We’ll give you the family you want, Harry.”
Harry turned and brushed his nose through Draco’s hair. “You already have.” He sighed. “It’s safer to be invisible, but I wish I could see you at this moment.”
“I’m looking at you like you’re a puppy,” Draco declared and laughed when Harry nudged him with an elbow.
There was a little pop in front of them. Dobby put his hands on hips briefly then waved a hand to make himself invisible. “Master Harry, why you be sitting on a hill invisible?”
“We’re planning the Flamel’s execution. What’s up? I thought you were hunting?”
The grass depressed completely in front of him and Harry figured Dobby had sat down. “Winky and I play rock, paper, scissors.”
“And you lost?” Harry asked with a laugh.
“Yes!” Dobby exclaimed and huffed. “So I be having to ask about Fangirl Wheezy. It not be good idea to leave her alive, you see. We be worried—worried for the baby. What if she gets free somehow? You can’t be sending our babies to Hogwarts if she be in that chamber.”
“We be family,” Dobby exclaimed proudly. “I eat stupid peas, Master Harry, I get to play with babies.”
“I can’t fault your logic,” Harry said dryly. “Peas are good for you.”
“Bah,” Dobby scoffed. “You tell us kill Death Eaters but Fangirl not a Death Eater.”
“Ah, so you’re here asking permission to remove her from the Chamber?”
Harry sighed and used his free hand to rub his face then scratched his stubble a little as he considered the issue. Draco squeezed his hand slightly, and it didn’t feel like anything but approval. “Is this something we should discuss with Hermione?”
“Well, you didn’t discuss keeping her alive with us,” Draco pointed out. “You just made that decision. I personally would like to burn that little cunt at the stake. I’m pretty sure if Hermione were confident in her ability to find her in the chamber, she’d have already snuck down there and killed her. Because she is a threat to our son and the only permanent solution to that threat is her death. Also, Zir told us to eliminate all the threats to our child and Ginevra is certainly a threat even if she’s currently neutralized. We aren’t the parselmouths in Britain, and the Chamber is no longer a secret. We don’t know how long the charms I put on her will last.”
Harry sighed and focused on Dumbledore’s house. “Dobby, go ask Hermione if you can throw Ginny in a volcano and if she says yes then—yes you can toss her in the volcano. Don’t wake her up first and be quick about it—there is no telling what kind of search Molly Weasley is doing for her only daughter.”
Harry laughed even as the Dobby popped away with a snap of magic. He stood and tugged Draco up with him. “Ready?”
“Yeah—they’ve lived longer than they ever should’ve.”
Harry drew the activation stone out of his bracelet and rubbed across the runes with his thumb as he walked down the small hill and straight toward the nexus of the artificial ley line they’d created with the rune stones. He dropped it into place and used his boot to press into the ground. Magic swept up around the dome of the ward and magic flashed briefly over the entire property.
“Let’s see what you’ve got, old man.”