West of Here
Story: West of Here
Category: Harry Potter
Last updated: 09/18/2014
Status: In Progress
Summary: Harry Potter accidentally disappeared to another place and time the night his godfather fell through the veil. Voldemort has taken over and Harry is needed now more than ever to fight the growing evil. The only trouble is that Harry Potter is no longer a teenage wizard, but a full grown territorial marshal who uses weapons of a simpler, harsher time period, somewhere- west of here. *Chapter 1*: Chapter 1
Disclaimer: I own nothing of the Harry Potter characters.
West of Here
Chapter One: Back to Oz
The pair stared vacantly, still struggling with their varying degrees of shock as he loaded his guns with mechanical precision, oblivious to the bodies strewn about the room.
The quiet of breaths held in fearful anticipation previously was as nothing compared to the ominous quiet that replaced the jarring violence and chaos that reigned mere moments ago. It was as if the entire territory went as still as crickets on a summer night in the presence of a predator nearby. Make no mistake, the residents of this dusty hamlet knew a predator was in their midst and were instantly vigilant of the violence that could erupt if foolishly provoked.
The marshal carried on his dread duties with grim resolve. In these parts you either kept prepared or you died unprepared. It wasn't a matter of if, but when. No matter how fast and sure you were, a misfire or empty gun could spell the doom of even the fastest, surest gun. For all that there was no one purportedly faster or surer than Marshal Jamie Black.
Despite his young age, his reputation was one that even the old timers at the barber shop brought up on regular occasion when swapping stories of hard times and hard men.
Jamie was hard, but for all that he was known to be a fair man and not easily riled, but for all that… he wasn't someone you took lightly; at least not unless you didn't want to live long enough to swap tall tales with the rest of the old codgers down at the barbershop.
Jamie gave everyone a chance, but just one chance. After that you were asked to leave-nicely. If you decided that leaving wasn't in your immediate future plans, then Jamie explained it to you. By explaining, I mean the benefits of a long life in greener pastures was clearly laid out for your consideration, that, and the disadvantages of staying were equally explained for your consideration, sometimes brutally so, dependent upon the person's ability to assimilate new information.
If after that you still insisted upon a contrary point of view to the Marshal's, well then,.. you often found yourself in one of two places.
The first being the territorial prison: Stonegate. Now Stonegate too had a reputation, one that was well known throughout most of the entire western territory. Hard men were worked until they became pliable men; ones that could be remolded into conscientious and productive members of society that they hadn't been previously. In other words: they were broken and remade. Useless became useful. Impatient became abiding. Aggressive- gentle and so on.
When you left Stonegate you were either a new man, one that could and would contribute to society, or you didn't leave, at least not in the way you envisioned.
That is to say… you left dead; whether by a broken body brought on by endless toil, old age or uncertain acquaintances, but dead just the same.
If you went insane… you were put down like the rabid dog you were. Even in madness you found no reprieve at Stonegate. There were no 'paid for' pardons, no escapes, and certainly no releases only to return after having committed further atrocities.
Stonegate was your one chance for redemption in these parts. After Stonegate there were the territorial marshals. If you failed to redeem yourself once having left Stonegate's merciful climes, then the marshals were brought into the mix. Once a marshal was set on your trail your future outlook became muddied faster than that of a herd through a shallow pond.
Instead of gold or silver, cold unforgiving lead became the only metal you would ever collect, and the faster you worked for it the more you'd receive.
A quick spin of the hilt bringing the barrel up to eye level was followed by the click of his hammer being pulled back as he checked to make sure the barrel beneath the hammer was empty. Once satisfied, the hammer was returned and the colt returned home into the holster at his right hip.
The holster itself was as black and as well broken in as the boots on his feet, each for different reasons, and neither having anything to do with fleeing danger. His black Stetson was pulled down to the rims of his eyes, the shadow it cast hid his face, all except the cool gleam of his raptor sharp green eyes.
Despite that, the younger of the two onlookers was desperate to leap forward and pull the marshal into a rib cracking hug, despite his obvious trepidation over the recent slaughter he'd witnessed, and yes... it had been just that- a slaughter.
Six well-armed men positioned in advantageous locations around the saloon had been as nothing to the lightning reflexes of the territorial marshal.
They had lain in wait for the marshal's arrival. Unlike others, who tried and failed to avoid pursuit until they ran their mounts into the ground, this lot had decided on plan B. They thought to avoid their just, albeit harsh punishment, by eliminating the hand that was sent out to deliver said punishment.
They may have succeeded initially; had they drawn the attention of any other marshal save Jamie Black. Black, though young, was the only marshal that had never failed to bring in his quarry- alive or otherwise.
Every fast gun in the territory had marked Jamie Black as the man to stake a reputation on. Every one of said deluded prowess, in the territory, was now either dead or fled. Each of them had been given a chance to walk away. Those that chose poorly had the scars that proved their bad choice. Those that chose poorly twice, well… let's just say that they wouldn't be complaining over any mere scars, as the last one they'd received was the last one they would ever receive.
Five minutes previously….
"Reggie Taylor… John Pierce… Clyde Monroe… James-Jimmie Royce…Michael Taylor and Clavin, aka Red Royce…This is Territorial Marshal Jamie Black. By the authority of territorial Judge Lucas Finch you are hereby ordered to surrender yourself to appear before Judge Finch at his earliest convenience. Disarm yourselves and come out with your hands up."
"He-He-He...What if we don't feel much like.. what was it? Oh, Yeah…disarming ourselves and coming out with our hands up?" the one named Red challenged.
A pair of wand hands disappeared beneath a nearby table, but otherwise made no move to interfere with the unfolding drama. They would only act in defense of themselves. Though they were light wizards, this was not their fight and besides, nothing could take precedence over their mission-nothing.
"This is the only warning you will get, gentlemen. I suggest you take it," the young, but calm voice of authority returned from outside.
"Blow it out your arse!" a man with a rifle threatened as he cocked his weapon and turned over a nearby table to use as a makeshift shield.
The younger of the two wizards gave his partner a questioning look, but was met with a subtle shake of the head, staying his hand from interfering.
"There's six of them," the other argued, eyeing the criminals as they mobilized to go on the offensive and the other patrons decided they had more pressing business elsewhere- perhaps in another county.
The barmaid was the only person seemingly unconcerned by the unfolding mayhem around her. If anything she looked begrudgingly expectant as she huffed and grumbled under her breath, scrubbing at her glasses with more vigor than was required.
"If this Black is who we're searching for, then let us see what time and experience has done for our young charge. If he cannot handle even these, then what possible use will be in the war against Voldemort?' the elder suggested calmly in hushed tones, his blue eyes twinkling in anticipation.
For six months and more he and his younger counterpart had searched in vain, until stories had reached their inquisitive ears regarding the almost magical abilities of a young Marshal in Wyoming. Thus they found themselves in this charming hamlet: Bryer's Gulch.
The younger of the two snorted in disapproval, but otherwise made no move toward interfering, however much his instincts told him to do just that, especially given that his enhanced senses detected a scent that he hadn't noted for more than ten years.
Ten years… it was hard to believe it was already ten years since Sirius died and Harry disappeared. Years and years spent fruitlessly searching until all hope was exhausted.
Ten years ago he'd held Harry back from going into the veil after Sirius in the Death Chamber in the Hall of Mysteries. It was now ten years since Harry had broken free from his own grief laden arms to presumably go after Bellatrix Lestrange, only to have never been seen again.
They'd thought he'd been captured, turned to the dark even, but no… surely Voldemort would have gloated over and rubbed their faces in such a turn of fate.
They then thought he'd run away; his grief having got the better of him. So he and the order had searched the world over without the barest sign of his presence or passing by.
It was only after the unfortunate Death Eater who'd been captured within the time stream in the Hall of Time, (from that night when Harry and company stormed the ministry in a supposed rescue attempt), had finally been removed from his unending torment, that a glimmer of a clue had been gleaned regarding the possible whereabouts of one: Harry Potter.
Hermione Weasley had been instrumental in the removal of the Death Eater who was held captive in the time stream. His head going from infant to ancient and back again… over and over for nearly a decade before he was finally, safely removed. If one could call it that, as he'd been safely removed, only with a teenage head upon his mature shoulders.
Hermione had discovered that a time shift of some ten minutes had occurred, at least that was what the control panel had been set for. However, the Death Eater captured in the time stream had acted as a ripple, causing shifts in the time/space continuum. Ten minutes had been altered as the Death Eater de-aged. Ten minutes had become minus a hundred and ten years… Not the ten minutes initially hoped for.
Given the time of the original setting, it hadn't taken much of a stretch to unravel the mystery of mysteries.
Harry had attempted to go back ten minutes in time to prevent Sirius falling through the veil, only to have inadvertently got caught in the time stream and sent back a hundred and ten years, give or take the ten minutes being a matter of complete indifference at that point.
They hadn't found any evidence of Harry the world over because he no longer existed in this point in time.
Once discovered, Dumbledore had petitioned the courts and the ministry to allow the search for Harry to continue in the past.
He was met with uncertainty, as many argued that the time stream itself may have already been catastrophically altered, and if not; then certainly the addition of still more displaced individuals in the past would certainly accomplish that unthinkable outcome. And so; Harry Potter would remain exiled to the annals of history.
That was until Voldemort had overcome all avenues of resistance and now was on the brink of total victory over magical Europe, let alone England.
The people, those that hadn't already fled the continent, cried out in terror for a savior to rid them of their evil.
The savior they cried out for was far beyond their reach, currently.
At the brink of defeat, the ministry had recanted, seeing little difference by destruction and subjugation at Voldemort's hands over the possible altering of the timeline spelling their doom. One was a certainty, the other a possibility.
The revelation of the ' Potter/Voldemort's prophesy' had been all the convincing Dumbledore had needed at that point.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Dumbledore held Remus Lupin's forearm in a death grip beneath their table. They dared not interfere lest they cause ripples that would destroy the future in its entirety. That being the case they could well return to a void, trapped in endless night for all time, or worse, a future ruled by foulest evil.
The saloon doors parted and a lean figure wearing a black Stetson that shadowed his face, peered through from between the parted doors.
He wore a dark brown duster, well-worn jeans and a pair of black dust covered boots that made them appear milky gray at best.
Hands of the pursued drifted toward pistol grips, halting nervously when the young marshal spoke out in warning.
"Last chance Royce?"
"A noose is waiting for us compliments of Finch, Black. One way's sure, the other's a sure thing," he threatened with more bravado than he currently felt.
Few men had ever stared down Jamie Black and fewer still had lived to tell it-whole.
"One way's possible, but at least if worse comes to worst you'll get a last meal, and maybe even a sympathetic whore before you take a hard drop and hear the muffled snap of your neck before you're off to see Jesus. My way and you'll get neither, but you'll still have to square things with Jesus after," the marshal warned.
Some people can't see the forest for the trees.
Hands went to holsters like all hell was riding herd on them.
The air filled with gun smoke at the deafening report of four colts, a Winchester and a double barreled twelve gauge, filled the silence of the saloon. Splinters of wood filled the air as the doors to the saloon were blasted to pieces. Windows shattered and gouges of wood tore up the walls as the gunmen emptied their weapons into the front of the saloon, leaving nothing to chance, as word was the only thing worse than Jamie Black on your tail was a wounded Jamie Black on your tail.
As the last deafening rapport echoed away into the countryside, a throat clearing from behind had the outlaw gang spinning on their boot heels in disbelief.
There was Jamie Black calmly sipping a drink, leaning against the far end of the bar. His eyes were shrouded by the brim of his Stetson, but the smirk of his jaw was unmistakable.
Exclamations of stunned surprise gave way to yelps of panic. Hands hastily flew to gun belts, retrieving bullets that their shaking fingers could scarcely dislodge let alone stuff into their guns' waiting chambers as fast as their fear of hell demanded.
The marshal finished his drink and returned the glass to the bar. He smoothly pushed away from the bar, standing upright. With a practiced ease his hands pulled back the lapels of his duster, freeing his pair of colts. His hands slid down to loosely grip the butt of each colt jutting out of the body of each holster as he waited with grim resolve.
Bullets filled chambers and cylinders spun as hammers were pulled back and rifled barrels came up with deadly intent.
The outlaws never got off a shot despite having cocked and leveled their weapons first. Not a single round was fired from them as guns fell from hands that were now intent on trying to staunch the flow of precious blood from already dying bodies.
The marshal strode forward, stopping at the gasping form of Red Royce who was mewling despondently on his knees, his hands grasping his abdomen as blood seeped from between his trembling fingers.
"Help-p...p-please…" he begged pathetically, his haughty behavior from moments before having fled in the face of his waning mortality.
"Judge Finch and a new rope suddenly seem a better option to you, Red?" the marshal asked facetiously ,as he blew out the powder residue from the still smoking barrel of his left hand pistol, he'd never even drawn the right and he was purportedly right handed.
"A-Anything…" the man whined, adding fretfully, "I d-don't wanna die!"
"Then you shouldn't have taken to killin, Red. You got to like it in the war and thought to make a living out of it after. Now, you're finding out the flip side ain't to your liking. Tough shite! We all die, Red. You best get on with it as there ain't no stopping the reaper when a man's gut shot. That dark blood spilling out of you is from your liver and there's only one way to go from there...six feet down," the marshal promised with grim certainty.
"I…I'll see you in hell…. B-Black...ughh…" with that last gasp, Red Royce pitched forward and fell face first into a puddle of his own blood.
"Most likely," Jamie Black answered his already cooling adversary.
His guns reloaded and re-holstered, Jamie went back to his spot at the bar and recollected his glass, shooting the barmaid a pointed look.
With a weary sigh and an indulgent roll of the eyes, the bar maid refilled his glass and held out her hand expectantly.
The Marshal passed her a silver coin, but her fingers made a grasping motion as she reminded...
He smirked at that. Three gold coins followed the silver one which the maid snapped her hand close around before he could change his mind.
"Thanks Jamie," she chirruped, smiling for the first time.
"Sorry about the mess, Amy. " He tipped his hat, scooping up the bottle with one hand and a spare pair of glasses along with his own in the other.
"Don't be," she chastised. "Red was a pig. He and his gang of turds roughed up some of my girls pretty bad. Sally's over at Doc Haverson's getting patched up."
The marshal paused and turned back toward the matron. He set down the bottle, pulled another gold coin out from beneath his duster and placed it firmly into the matron's protesting hand, instructing..."Make sure Sally gets taken care of proper."
Reluctantly the matron accepted the offer, complimenting as she did, "Always the gentleman, Jamie."
The marshal snorted derisively at that, as he tipped his hat and turned back and collected the glasses and whiskey bottle.
Without any hesitation he walked over to the two waiting wizards, pulled out a chair and seated himself, pouring each of the two several fingers worth of bourbon. He tipped his glass to the two and downed his drink in a single go.
The elder sipped at his glass experimentally, his younger counterpart mimicked the marshal and paid for it as he coughed violently on the harsh liquor.
The marshal clapped his parents' last true friend on the back several times until he regained his composure.
"Can't be worse than wolfsbane potion, Remus?" he chuckled.
"Harry, it's you...it's really you?!" Remus gasped, excitedly trying to peer under the brim of the marshal's hat to get a better look at his face.
"It's Jamie, Remus. There ain't no Harry here; hasn't been for a long time. Besides, Harry Potter isn't a fittin' name for a territorial marshal. Jamie Black sounds a lot more imposing, dontcha think?" He smirked at that.
"Indeed yes," Dumbledore agreed, his own eyes twinkly madly as he continued to sip at his drink, deciding he liked it more and more with each trial.
Remus was trying desperately to keep from jumping forward and engulfing his once pseudo nephew in a rib cracking hug. He was held at bay by the dark vibe coming off Jamie Black, in that he didn't give the impression that he would appreciate such a gesture.
They had expected to find a much younger and far more gracious Harry Potter, but time is an uncertain thing and despite their best efforts they found their wayward savior grown and much changed from the boy they once knew.
Harry Potter didn't carry a wand, but a pair of guns, something that was anathema to any self-respecting wizard.
Once each had had a chance to organize their thoughts, Albus started the conversation, or in his case- recrimination.
"Was it necessary to kill these men? Were there no more readily available and more morally acceptable alternatives than just common murder?" he both accused and lectured in the same breath.
His views were unasked for, and by his supposed charge's reaction,unwanted.
"I'm no longer a school boy in your charge so save your lecture for your awe struck, if not misguided, students and leave the work of men to men-bureaucrat," he rebuffed with a distasteful sneer. "I was ordered to bring in these men alive if possible, dead if necessary, but either way- death was in their imminent future. We give just one chance, around these parts, to redeem yourself. You blow it, you die. Either a public hanging or a more violent, albeit, more expedient death, awaits those the marshals are tasked with bringing to justice. Around these parts you don't buy or connive your way to freedom. You earn it. After that it's up to you whether or not it's a permanent thing or merely temporary. Bottom line; Dumble-do-gooder… keep your pansy-arse morality standards to yourself, and shut your furry gab over things you don't and can't possibly understand." He bit off warningly that last.
Dumbledore's eyes went wide in surprise; shocked that for the first time in recent memory anyone had dared challenge his authority, let alone not show him the utmost respect.
This was not the pliable and appreciative Harry Potter he'd expected to find.
"Harry…!" Remus interjected, obviously aghast at the way his mentor was being received."You should show the headmaster more respect. He…"
Jamie Black held up an impatient hand halting Remus' reprimand, "He ain't my headmaster, nor is he the judge I answer to. He's a nosy old man who's here only because he wants something, not because he wants to give something. Let me guess… trouble with Tom Riddle, aka-Voldemort?" He sneered suspiciously, knowing before they could answer that he'd hit the mark. A long time ago he had cometo the realization that no one was coming to rescue him, and if they did, it was only because they wanted something, not because they actually gave a hang about him in the first place.
Remus nodded his head solemnly, but Dumbledore took up the opportunity to plead their case believing he could work on Harry's compassion as he'd done on numerous occasions as a child.
"Tom Riddle is slowly, but inexorably, taking over Europe, whilst England grows weaker by the day, fighting a losing battle to try and hold his forces in check, let alone actually repel or even defeat the man. The Weasleys are living at headquarters as the Burrow was destroyed in a firefight that took both Percy and Charles, leaving the rest of them homeless and despondent. Hermione's parents were killed shortly after you disappeared and she's never been quite the same since, having already taken your loss very hard. Neville Longbottom lost an arm in one such encounter with Death Eaters, but he and Luna are still fighting the good fight and…"
Dumbledore halted his pitch at Jamie Black's raised a hand for him to desist.
"Not my problem," he commented with grim resolve.
"Not your problem?" Remus blurted aghast, raising his voice to press on, "Not your problem?! This is your home and your friends we're talking about. You can't possibly turn your back on…"
Jamie talked over the man, Remus' tirade dying in his throat. "Not-my-problem." He pressed on with deliberate assuredness. "They're not even born yet and I'm long since out of sight and out of mind. Tell you what though, since you've got such a hard-on for all things Voldemort, I'll make a point of visiting the bugger after he hatches and putting him out of your misery. So, head on back and see what's what in a "Voldemort free world" when you get there." That said, he pushed himself back from the table and calmly walked away before either could even begin to entreat him further. By that their next gambit would be either to beg , coerce or downright threaten, though what they could possibly use as leverage was another matter entirely.
Jamie tipped his hat to the barmaid on his way out, who shot him a wan smile and a shake of the head for his trouble.
Moments later the sound of hooves trotting away heralded his departure from the two shocked wizards who were still contemplating Jamie Black's dread intention.
Jamie rose and re-holstered the colt he kept to hand under his pillow whilst he slept. Only a fool kept his guns out of reach whilst sleeping. The people he dealt with weren't big on common courtesy, ie… they'd shoot you in the back or kill you in your sleep rather than meeting you face to face.
These were desperados, not duelists.
Using a hand pump at his kitchen sink, he washed his close-cropped hair and face, along with any other parts he could readily reach.
His cabin wasn't much, but it was his. He had an eat-in kitchen with modern conveniences such as a magical cooling cupboard and a hand pump to draw water directly from his well.
A small but comfortable living room, with a leather sofa and an arm chair before a stone fireplace, and one bedroom with a magical water closet and magical laundry attached.
It wasn't elegant, but it was comfortable and it was his, along with the dozen acres of land it sat on, which included plenty of water access and a variety of magical and non-magical game; one such he'd developed a working relationship if not friend ship with.
Donning buckskin pants, wool shirt and snakeskin boots, he belted his holster on and tied down his guns, to ease the action of his draw primarily, but also to not hinder movement if pursuit was required.
Black Stetson pulled down low over his brow, he went out to greet the new day's adventure.
The adventure was, unfortunately, waiting for him when he opened the door.
"Pleasant day to you, Har, er…I mean Marshal Black," Dumbledore hastily amended at seeing the immediate glare his use of the given name instilled.
By the look of things, the two had spent the better part of sunrise waiting for him to emerge from his cabin, as they were making themselves at home on his porch furniture, taking the liberty of turning the furniture toward his doorway so as not to leave their backs exposed.
He had to give them one for being wisely cautious.
"Can't you find something better to do with yourselves?" he scowled irritably. "I said I'll take care of Voldemort when the time comes and I will. As that should readily conclude our business, piss off and go bother somebody who gives a rat's fart for your hardship."
He tipped his hat and stepped down off his porch-stair, intent on leaving them where they stood for however long they decided to stand there doing nothing. He couldn't care less how long that was as he was confident they couldn't breach the wards on his cabin and he intended to be gone for the next month or so anyway.
"We did go back and things are the same; Voldemort's still alive," Remus complained hollowly.
Black stopped in his tracks, his back stiffening at that bit of information. He was surprised given the fact that he had truly intended to kill the bastard and wasn't just blowing smoke to get the pair off his back.
He never turned around, but spoke slowly and succinctly so as there would be no misunderstanding between them.
"That means I didn't survive long enough to finish him first."
"Or you just didn't bother to try?" Remus suggested darkly.
Black turned around slowly at that, and fixed Remus with the steely gaze that most would avoid at all costs around these parts.
"I don't say what I don't mean, unlike this old geezer here," he thumbed in Dumbledore's direction for emphasis, inwardly gladdened to see that his intentional barb unsettled the old man.
Yes, he knew that Dumbledore had been setting him up to be his willing dupe all along.
Before Dumbledore could try needlessly to diffuse his ire with some feigned grandfatherly act, he asked pointedly: "So what now?"
Dumbledore recited the prophesy verbatim, following with: "As you can plainly see, it is beholden on you to come back with us and face your destiny in destroying Voldemort as you were prophesized to do," Dumbledore suggested with nothing of a suggestion, but more of a demand in his voice.
Black tipped his hat up so they could see the incredulous look in his eyes. "It says nothing of the sort. Only that I have the power to do it, not that I'll succeed. If I didn't make it to his first birthday party then obviously I wasn't meant to succeed in the first place. As usual Dumbles, you're interpreting things to suit yourself for your own warped version of the "Greater Good," he bit off, contemptuously drawing quotation marks in the air.
Acting shocked and dismayed, which he probably was but to a lesser extent, Dumbledore beseeched in his best grandfatherly voice, "I have only ever done what I felt was necessary for the benefit of all concerned, and while I may not have done exactly well by you Harry, I fail to see what I could have possibly done to have earned such contempt for my person on your part?"
"Sure you do" Black returned sarcastically. "I'm supposed to believe that the great puppeteer suddenly doesn't know what strings he pulled which directly destroyed several lives? You must think me the foolishly naïve fifth year I once was. I suppose it messed up your game plan finding not a pliable boy, but a full grown and fully trained wizard, who was not waiting for your overdue arrival to save the day?"
"Harry… I…please, you wound me… I…" Dumbledore's stuttering attempt to implore forgiveness or at the least forbearance was abruptly cut off.
"Save it. I wouldn't piss on you if you were on fire, let alone fight your battles for you."
Dumbledore stood staring blankly, his mouth wordlessly working through the confusion over someone not wholeheartedly accepting him at his word, let alone not readily acquiescing to his requests without a thought to the contrary.
This was new and unexplored territory to the famed "Leader of the Light".
His eyes softening slightly, Black turned his attention to Dumbledore's stunned companion. "I can't say it isn't nice to see you once again Remus, though I am sorry for your lot, but I won't help. I did that once and many times over. All I have to show for my trouble is an empty family tree. My advice to you is to get out and explore new horizons. Britain may be where magic began, but it's not where it ends, not by a long shot. There are other people and other cultures that are for more understanding than dreary old England. Find acceptance, Remus. Grab on with both hands and never let go. Give yourself the life you deserve, not the life that England's intolerance forces upon you and yours."
That said, Black tipped his hat and turned to leave. He put his fingers to his lips and blew a piercing whistle that echoed out into the hillside.
"Har… er… I mean Jamie, wait, I have something for you." Remus hastily amended his name, holding out a note for his consideration.
Black eyed the note suspiciously before blowing out a long suffering sigh and accepting the missive.
"Hermione, right?' he asked, already knowing the answer as he recognized the penmanship denoting his given name.
Remus nodded hopefully.
Unfolding the note he found a short but poignant reminder of what once was.
I know from talking with Remus and Professor Dumbledore that you have chosen to remain in the past and that you have pledged yourself toward eliminating Voldemort before he grows into the monster he will become.
The fact that you are reading this now shows that you were unsuccessful in the attempt. Knowing you, as I once did and hope still do; this means you either died preceding his birth or in the attempt.
Either way, our lives here are still a misery. Every day the shadow Voldemort casts grows darker, more cold and unforgiving. Every day our numbers decrease and soon we will join our fallen family and friends. I do not say this to guilt you or try to manipulate you, I merely state the facts of what is and what soon will be.
Perhaps I am even dead by the time you read this; a strange concept, as by your timeline I have yet to be born.
I wish I could go back in time too, but our lives and our fate are here. My parents lived and died here and I feel I owe it to them to fight in their memory. I respect your decision and I don't blame you, not for a second; you did all that could have been expected of you and far more than anyone should have ever expected from a teenage wizard.
I hope you find in the past what you were denied in the future, Harry. The one consolation I take with me is knowing that when I die; you will already be on the other side waiting for me. That thought comforts me more than I can possibly express in a few written words.
Until we meet again,… all my love, 'Mione
It had been ten years; ten long, lonely, difficult years, and now it was as if his once friends were reaching out to him and the ministerial battle had taken place only yesterday. In his own defense, he had forgotten what it was to be needed, cherished even, by the friends you made and called your family once upon a time.
That time was over a hundred years away, but it still happened, or would happen, either way, they were there and they needed him.
He didn't owe anyone anything here. He made sure of that as he paid his debts when he made them or as soon as possible thereafter.
He did owe his friends something though; they had fought and suffered without even having been asked to help. They had done so because they were his friends.
No, they are his friends. Hermione, Ron, Neville, Ginny and Luna were his friends and like before, only in reverse; they weren't asking, but could he do less than what they had done freely and of their own accord for him?
Carefully he folded up Hermione's note and tucked it into his shirt's chest pocket.
To Remus he instructed: "I'll be coming back with you Remus. I need a few days to put my affairs in order, though. "
"Of course, Harry, er… Jamie… and thank you," Remus returned gratefully, his face looking extremely relieved by this change of heart.
"Excellent, Excellent…" Dumbledore began to bluster, clapping his hands together expectantly.
"Don't get you knickers in a twist old man. I'm not going back to make you look good and there are conditions to my assistance."
Dumbledore visibly deflated at that. "Conditions?' he asked worriedly.
Black nodded. "I take care of Voldemort my way, in my own time. That done, I'm returned here to this time and never bothered by you and yours again."
"But Harry, you can't expect that…" Dumbledore began to argue, but was cut off before he could get up a head of steam.
"No interference and I return here after the job is done, non-negotiable, " he reminded sharply.
"If I refuse?" Dumbledore responded coolly, fingering his wand to emphasize his intention to take Harry with him either way.
"Then Remus will have to make do with taking your corpse back in my stead," Black warned, lowering his palms to just above the handles of his colts.
For split second Dumbledore contemplated stunning the young man and returning him against his will.
For split second, Black thought Dumbledore was about to find out that his expiration date had at last; come due.
Along those lines he gave the old man fair warning. "You'll be gasping out your last trying to plug the leak in your guts before your wand tip even starts to glow."
Deciding discretion was the better part of valor, Dumbledore lived up to his reputation and wisely pocketed his wand within his robes.
"Agreed," Dumbledore accepted the terms with a note of resignation.
"I assume you're still head of the Wizengamot?"Black inquired.
"I am," the old man acknowledged.
"Then I want it in writing. Again, non-negotiable," Black insisted.
Sighing wearily, Dumbledore withdrew some already prepared documentation from his robes and proffered it cautiously, in a non-threatening manner, forward.
With an incredulous snort, Black cautiously waved a hand over the document, startling the two wizards when the document glowed blue indicating it was free of hexes, port keys and the like.
They were stunned speechless by such a casual display of wandless magic. Clearly there was more to Black than either had even remotely considered.
Black accepted the document and proceeded to read it.
He hadn't even started before Remus asked the obvious;"You can do wandless magic?"
"Obviously," Black returned absently. as he carefully continued reading the document.
"Then why even bother with guns?" Remus blurted out, that last word as if it were vile to the tongue.
"Looks can be deceiving," Black replied mysteriously. He'd finished the document and murmured "acceptable,", pocketing the document alongside Hermione's missive.
Remus was still waiting for more of an explanation, but was wasting his time asDumbledore knew. He'd spent his life dealing with and being cautious of such men as Jamie Black was proving to be, and he was right in that; this was not Harry Potter. This was indeed: Jamie Black.
They had badly misjudged and misinterpreted their quarry from the outset. It was not a mistake that Dumbledore intended to make again. Begrudgingly, he was beginning to respect Mr. Black as was his due.
"Alright, I've got things to do and places to be. Meet me here at first light three days from now. You don't show, I don't go, which will be fine and dandy by me." He was about to abruptly turn away in dismissal as he intended to go about his business, but thought better of it and held back, turning toward Remus. He tapped his shoulder with his palm and a brief red glow enveloped Remus for a split second, fading as abruptly as it came.
Before Remus could ask, he explained.. "I've set the wards to accept you. You're welcome to stay here if you like." That said, he turned his attention to an anticipating Dumbledore. "You ain't welcome in the house, so it's the stables; if Shade will have ya."
Dumbledore's mustached mouth drooped in disappointment, but he recovered slightly to venture… "Er, Shade?"
"My horse." Black smirked, enjoying the look of outrage that ghosted across the old man's face.
"Ah, couldn't he just room with me?" Remus came to the old man's rescue.
"No." Black cut him off without a moment's consideration.
"He ain't nosin' about my place unsupervised. Bad enough that Shade has to put up with him as it is, though I recon he'll keep the old goat in line well enough." At that, Jamie Black laughed conspiratorially, put his fingers to his lips and blew a shrill whistle.
A night-black mare with glowing red eyes whinnied as it galloped up from around the edge of the cabin. The mare came to a halt directly in front of Black and nudged him fondly with its snout.
"There's a good girl," he complimented fondly patting her flank with one hand as his other hand slipped into his pocket and retrieved a cube of sugar with which to treat his mare.
The two wizards stared goggling at the horse, their eyes sliding back and forth between the marshal and his mount in stunned disbelief.
Finally Remus blurted out the obvious. "A night mare!"
"Isn't she a beauty? Takes after her mother. Which reminds me… Shade, I'm going over to the res for a spell, you wanta come along and visit you're kin 'cause otherwise you'll have to share your stable with that furry old lady over there?". He thumbed toward Dumbledore, who held a distinct look of waning patience, but otherwise held his tongue.
It would not do to be upsetting Black, lest he return home empty handed again. That, and he was decidedly wary of Mr. Black's talents. Judging by his reflexes and speed with the firearms he carried, Dumbledore was not wanting to risk a sample of either those or any other talents as yet unrevealed.
The way the boy he once knew carried himself as an adult bespoke someone who was entirely confident in his abilities.
All that aside, there was no way that he was going to share any sort of confined space with something as notably unpredictable as a nightmare. They were outlawed in Britain and with good reason.
Nightmares were said to be able to run so fast that they could even traverse water for short distances. They were legendarily temperamental and rarely if ever bonded with humans, not that any self-respecting wizard would foolishly seek their company.
Nightmares, as their names implied, also had the ability to enter dreams and act as a spirit reason they were named as such was because they often revealed the absolute worst possible present and future probabilities, so much so, that many of their hosts died in their sleep from heart failure.
It was with a new found respect that Dumbledore considered Marshal Black, as historically, only the pure of heart could risk bonding with nightmares and survive continued encounters for any length of time without suffering lethally from the experience. That, and or, Harry Potter's legendary courage was on a scale as yet unheard of.
Shade eyed the old man, who fixed her with his most innocently innocuous expression. Shade snorted a few times, sniffing the air around Dumbledore, before decidedly shaking her head in the absolute negative as she snorted in absolute contempt over the prospect.
Dumbledore, despite his relief, showed a hint of his own likewise feelings on the matter in that he wanted nothing to do with the er… horse.
Black settled his mount with several reassuring strokes along its gleaming neck. "Can't say as I blame ya; the old geezer used to give me nightmares too."
"Alright then, fetch your saddle and we'll be on our way," he instructed, and the horse trotted off happily with an added swish of its tail in Dumbledore's direction to show its continued disdain.
"Well really?" The old man grumped, offended.
"Good judge of character, nightmares." Black chuckled darkly.
The mare returned with the saddle in question dangling from its maw like a retriever bringing its master the evening newspaper.
Black strapped on the saddle whilst his mount waited patiently. No sooner was the saddle cinched into place before he pulled himself up into the saddle, tipped his hat in Remus' direction, and clicked his tongue whilst giving the reins a quick shake. The mare whinnied, rearing up, pawing its hooves at the air before launching forward in full gallop. A blink of an eye later, no more than a dust cloud on the horizon signaled their departure, leaving the two wizards gaping in consternation.
Remus availed himself of his host's hospitality, finding his cabin a charmingly comfortable, if somewhat quaint, lodging. He passed the time reading from Black's humble though somewhat thoroughly well stocked library, which consisted solely of a three shelved case built into one wall, but for all that, he'd managed to collect many ancient texts on magical theory and practice, along with a smattering of many literary classics.
Additionally, there were several manuscripts that appeared to be written in Black's own hand, if memory served regarding Harry's scrawl,though the language was something he couldn't begin to decipher, had it not been for a few strategically well drawn pictograms which provided clues to specific spells and conjurations. Many of the works appeared to center on a more spirit form of magical practices, raising Remus suspicions regarding just what his friend's son had been up to these past many years.
What he didn't know but suspected, was that Harry Potter had hardly been idly in the time he was disconnected from his previous life.
He'd grown up, and had definitely grown out, from the time he'd disappeared as a grief stricken fifth year to the young, but well matured and highly competent, man they'd surprisingly found.
The only question wasis he still was a practicing wizard or had he foregone magic for a simpler, more direct means to an end? He was after all, for all intents and purposes, living in a more rustic era.
Albus was greatly troubled by one,Jamie Black, Remus far less so, though neither knew much about him other than what they based on the boy he'd once been by comparison to their rudimentary first impressions of the man he now was.
Albus based his opinion thus far primarily on what he'd viewed in that Marshal; Jamie Black was a man of intense, crude violence. At least that's what he perceived to be the case. His version of the "the greater good" was that, his version. Many of the Order, Remus included, had found to their regret that Albus Dumbledore's archaic notions of perpetual forgiveness for heinous crimes had contributed greatly to their current predicament. They were losing a war to criminals that had been incarcerated time and again only to either buy their way to freedom, or just plan escape confinement, to commit further atrocities and get no more than the same previous sentence once apprehended, and thereby repeat the cycle over and and over again.
Remus had great respect for Albus Dumbledore and all he'd accomplished and attempted to accomplish, but for all that; he was not who and what they needed if they had any chance for their society's survival. There was a reason Harry Potter was named in the prophesy to defeat Voldemort. Just as there was a reason that Albus Dumbledore was not the 'Chosen One'. That reason had nothing to do with age or infirmity, but with ability and along those lines, the conviction to win a brutal war by whatever means necessary.
Voldemort was a cruel megalomaniac with a sadistic streak a mile wide. Monsters of Voldemort's caliber were not defeated mercifully, or moralistically for that matter. Rabid dogs were put down harshly and expediently for a reason.
Remus saw with more than his eyes; he saw with his heart. He saw the boy he once knew in the man. He saw first and foremost a survivor. He couldn't fathom how Harry could have survived being displaced a hundred plus years into a simpler yet harsher time period with no viable means of support, not even a completed education to fall back on, and certainly not one that could have prepared him for this drastic a change. Most would have ended the victim of fate or taken their own life out of fear and despair. Harry though, Harry was made of sterner stuff.
Next, and quite telling, Harry had taken the names of his two fathers and made them his own. Remus knew that this had little to do with how Jamie Black rolled off the tongue and more to do with honor and remembrance.
Odd, that, given that James and Sirius had yet to be born, their child claimed their names to remember them. Yes, odd, for anyone but Harry Potter.
Remus had no qualms in calling him Jamie Black as he preferred. He was the product of two men he admired. Yes, Remus saw with his heart, and what he saw thus far was by no means a disappointment.
Harry may not show Albus Dumbledore any respect; which immediately made him unworthy in the elder man's eyes, but then again, maybe Harry had good reason for the way he felt and acted.
One could claim on one hand that their friends and family had survived thus far as a result of Dumbledore's guidance. On the other hand, one could claim they'd suffered the losses they had directly due to the old man's mistakes.
It was more than that though; Harry had seemed to instinctively dislike Dumbledore from the moment they reconnected. Apparently Harry had done some soul searching as he matured and the end result left Dumbledore wanting in his eyes.
Yes, apparently Harry had come to the same conclusion as many of the Order, only it had taken him far less time to do so.
Tomorrow would prove to be an interesting day once they returned to England in the present.
"Ack Gaaaa!" A drenched Dumbledore came awake gasping and holding his chest as if to ward off a cardiac arrest.
"Wake up ya fuzzy slacker. Morning's half gone and you're still a-bed?" "Jamie Black scolded, tossing the now empty water bucket aside.
"It's the middle of the night?!" Dumbledore complained, pointing at the starlit sky outside the barn's open shuttered window.
"England's eight hours ahead of our present location, or did you fancy returning in the middle of the night and trying to explain our after hour presence to the Unspeakables on guard? Probably end up locked in a holding cell? Not that it wouldn't solve the problem of what to do with a useless old cogger like you once we return, but me… I've got better things to do than to monitor your senile old arse."
"Now see here!" Dumbledore blustered indignantly, his eyes ablaze and the air around him crackling with magical discharge.. "You start showing me the proper respect and I mean right now…urp!" Dumbledore's eyes crossed staring down the barrel of one of Jamie Black's colts. He didn't know what he found more unsettling; the fact that someone, anyone, was actually daring to threaten him, or the fact that Black had moved so fast that he hadn't even registered the movement until far too late to prevent his current predicament.
"Save your intimidation tactics for school children you decrepit old bungler." Jamie pulled back the barrel from beneath Dumbledore's nose and spun the colt backward at a terrifying speed, sliding it, without a hitch, into its holstered home.
Dumbledore blinked twice in shocked surprise. He hadn't thought it possible that anyone could move so quickly, not even a former seeker with Harry Potter's exceptional reflexes.
How he wished he showed such familiarity with a wand. They might actually have a chance to win the war if that were the case.
He couldn't know how wrong he was on both counts.
Dumbledore drew and displayed his wand slowly, in a non-threatening manner, mindful of Black's narrowed eyes watching his intentions closely. He waved his wand and dried his sodden moon and star robes.
"All ready to go, my boy," he pronounced in his best grandfatherly tone and re-pocketed his wand.
Black rolled his eyes. "I was hoping those were pajamas," he groused. "I see you still dress like you're going to some medieval costume ball, and I ain't 'your boy'." he warned, enjoying the way the old man's moustache drooped on both counts.
Black was dressed in heavy jeans with dark brown, near black, boots, that matched the color of his Stetson hat and the scaled duster he was wearing. The lapels of his duster were pulled back over the holsters of his colts, freeing the action. He wore a dark, near black-green, cavalry shirt with golden buttons securing one flap over the other, that could be opened in warmer weather and buttoned back on the other side of his chest. He wore a gleaming golden badge over his heart. The badge was unlike the one they first saw him wearing, but Dumbledore failed to take in account that the inscription too was different and not just the color.
Jamie turned away from Dumbledore without comment, fully expecting the headmaster to follow in his wake.
Much to the chagrin of the headmaster, he did just that.
Black paused to heft a, well broken in, saddle up over his left shoulder and hold it by it horn with his left hand. He did so with surprising ease, despite what was probably a good seventy-five pounds of leather and silver accent buckled fastenings.
"Surely you don't intend to try and bring your mount back with us?" Dumbledore gaped incredulously, thinking to take the opportunity to enter into lecture mode and put the insufferable man in his place.
"The time portal is only calibrated for we three individuals and the added mass of a horse could see us fused in death at worse or hopelessly castaway in another time and place."
"Don't be daft," Black admonished with a roll of his eyes, turning away disgustedly from Dumbledore as he moved to the door of his barn and called back over his shoulder…
"The saddle's for you, ya stupid old mule." He chuckled darkly, leaving Dumbledore shocked into speechlessness.
The portal opened with a deafening crack as if the fabric of the very universe was tearing open - and so it was; blueish-white light filled the chamber as three man-shaped forms walked forward, their shapes solidifying and becoming more distinct as they seemed to be walking right out of the afterlife.
The figure in the middle was larger and more indistinct than the other two, and Hermione feared that something had gone wrong in her calculations, causing some form of fused mutation, or perhaps they had mistakenly tried to bring back two persons instead of one, thereby corrupting the time steam calibration.
Her worry, she realized, was misplaced, as what did it all matter anyway;it was far too late, and they were all dead already.
The light paled and winked out, leaving those present in the time chamber to shake their heads, trying to dispel the cobwebs and flashes before their over stimulated eyes.
When their vision cleared, a black uniformed Hermione Granger sighed both in relief and disappointment that she had performed her task correctly and had safely, or supposedly safely, returned the three to their present time. The indistinct blob, she realized, was a heavily jacketed man with a cowboy hat, holding, surprisingly, a saddle over his left shoulder.
She couldn't see his face until his hat tipped upward and intense green eyes caught her own liquid brown ones.
Her breath hitched in recognition. Despite the endless years that had separated them, she would have known those eyes anywhere.
No longer painfully thin and drawn, a broad shouldered, lean, Harry Potter stood before her. His face was a tad on the thin side, but still full, with high cheek bones and a strong jaw.
The cute boy he'd once been had grown into a handsome, rugged man.
As ecstatic as she was to see him, she wished he hadn't've come. The warning of which was reflected in her eyes.
Piercing green eyes narrowed suspiciously as his nostrils flared, catching the scent in the room even faster than Remus' werewolf enhanced senses did.
According to his senses there was only one female in the room as his eyes could plainly see, but there was four other men that he couldn't see as well.
Two in front of them, one to either side of Hermione. as her shifting eyes indicated, and if he were a betting man, which he was, there were two stationed just behind, all of them under invisibility cloaks.
Black dropped his saddle and before it hit the ground he had already drawn his colts. The report echoed deafeningly through the stone chamber as both pistols fired, and blood sprayed out of nowhere to either side of Hermione who was too shocked to move. That's what Black originally thought in that split second before he launched himself into the air, twisting around as he flew bodily toward Hermione.
He had realized that she was under a petrification curse and could neither move nor defend herself. His body shielded her's as he fired several times toward the left rear wall, behind where they had emerged Remus already firing his wand into the right rear wall, his enhanced sense of smell betraying the general location of his adversary.
A reductor curse caught the cloaked Death Eater, but didn't put him down as he managed to fire off a cutting hex that caught Black's right shoulder, spraying blood into the face of a petrified Hermione who was silently screaming in both fear and worry for her once friend.
Once friend? She hated herself for even thinking of their friendship in the past tense. Theirs was the sort of friendship that transcended time, as current events now indicated. They had been and always would be the best of friends.
Twisting back from the impact, Black bit back a growl, and fired off a hurried shot in the spot where he'd seen the spell originate and to the left and down, tracking the direction of Remus' spell and extrapolating the angle of decent that a body would fall after having been hit by said spell. He was rewarded by a scream cut short and the sound of a body falling dead immediately after his third shot.
"Remus?" he called out in concern.
"I'm alright. I wasn't hit." Remus growled predatorily, his senses still on high alert.
Jamie nodded in relief before barking out at an obviously appalled Dumbledore, "Make yourself useful and save your morality speeches for later. Cover the door and cut down anyone that you even suspect has dubious intentions." In after thought he added, "Don't worry about saving any souls, just move them along to the next 'great adventure.'" Jamie chuckled darkly at that.
He nodded Remus toward the spray of blood where his bullets had intersected the idiots and Remus immediately set about de-cloaking and checking their adversaries.
That done and Dumbledore finally getting his head out of his arse, Jamie turned his attention on Hermione whose eyes were both silently pleading for release and still held a profound sense of worry for him and his.
He smiled disarmingly before signaling for secrecy by putting a finger to his lips, before waving a hand and a hastily cast cleaning charm instantly cleaned off the blood splatter. He then touched her forehead and uttered a word in a strange language that she couldn't identify, but whatever he did; she could feel the paralyzing curse dissipate, and she instantly launched herself into his arms. sobbing in both worry and relief.
The words just poured out of her as she vented her worry, relief, fears, and a multitude of emotions, not the least of which was joy at reuniting with her lost friend.
"Oh, God… I prayed you wouldn't come and now… you're hurt. I-It's too late…the ministry's already fallen. Voldemort tortured the minister and found out our plan. I'm sorry I couldn't warn you. I tried to hold them off, but one of them eventually stunned me and then…then you came and I thought I'd have to watch them murder you.. I was so s-scared…" She hiccoughed, the words just pouring out of her mouth as tears fell from worried eyes.
"Shush, now." he cooed gently, holding her tight and shushing her fears. "I'm just fine and glad I came if only to keep you from getting killed,,,or worse," he added pointedly, silently berating himself for his slip as she stiffened at the image his words put in her mind.
Changing tack, he gently pulled back to admire the fretting woman with an appraising eye.
"M'ione you're beautiful. I always knew you'd be a stunner one day. Ron's a lucky fella, that is if he's got his head outta his arse yet?"
"Ron, but we haven't told anyone and... there's a war on, we've no time for any romantic…" Hermione blustered, self-consciously smoothing down her rumpled uniform with one trembling hand while the other tried to comb through her disheveled chestnut locks.
"Oh the hell with that," Black admonished. "There's always time for a kiss here and tickle there, especially if there's a 'war on.' He drew quotation marks in the air, chuckling as she blushed under his scrutiny.
"Same old M'ione… only fooling yourself, God love you for it." He walked around his fidgeting friend, eyeing her critically.
"Nice and lean, long legs and firm backside by the looks of it. Yesiree, you've grown into a fine filly alright."
"What?!" Hermione gasped in mortification as Harry continued his appraisal undaunted by her bristling. " make a good ride with the right training put in…" he commented off handedly, more to himself than her.
"Of all the nerve!" Hermione spun around, covering her bum with one hand and the other poised to slap him across the face.
He caught her hand without the slightest effort, complimenting,"There's the M'ione I remember, but save your claws for the Dung Eaters as I'm sure there's more scattered about that need our immediate attention," he smirked, throwing her a wink that clearly stated a 'Harry Potter' type adventure was about to begin.
She gulped hopefully, (and worriedly), at that, before utterly deflating. "I wish, but it's too late. They've taken the ministry and the Dark Lord has appointed himself minister. England's through. Everyone we know has already fled its shores. I would've left myself when the last battle started, but I couldn't, you were suppose…" the words trailed off fretfully, but he caught the gist of it.
She would have fled with the Weasley's if she hadn't've had to make sure that he had a chance to arrive without being immediately murdered.
He grabbed up her hands and placed a kiss of both appreciation and affection to the back of her them.
Releasing her hands he set about discarding his used brass and reloading his pistols with a practiced ease that was frightening.
Once finished, he ran the cylinders of each down the length of his arm, checking as they spun that each held a bullet in readiness.
"So it's just us then?" he commented off handedly, as he scrutinized each gun before re-holstering and moving on to the next. He held two colts at his hips and another colt was holstered under each arm. He made sure the draw of each was unhindered, and once satisfied he turned his attention toward the tear in the shoulder of his coat.
"Is it bad?" Hermione asked worriedly, moving toward his shoulder with reaching hands.
"Hell yes, I just made the damn thing and side winders ain't easy to come by in these parts," he groused as he scrutinized the gash in his shoulder.
"Not the coat, your arm-side winders?! Hermione gasped in alarm, suddenly catching the reference to the hide his coat was supposedly made of. "You mean the snakes that can supposedly fly and spit venom that's acidic? But they're supposed to be extinct!"
He snorted at that. "Like I said, hard to come by." He took a pinch of something that was yellow and pasty out of a leather pouch he wore around his neck, and pressed it into the wound in his shoulder, hissing in pain, before catching himself and sheepishly putting a finger to his lips calling for secrecy, mumbling… "Tough guy," to which Hermione rolled her eyes.
After a moment he sighed in relief, and then proceeded to wave his hand over the tear in his scaly coat and it closed and sealed right before her startled eyes. She was further shocked that the scales were in perfect alignment, something that she couldn't have repaired so perfectly even on her best day and she considered herself quite adept with a wand.
She chanced a look back toward the headmaster and Remus,who were watching the hall and checking the fallen respectively, oblivious to his display of wandless magic, of something that was theoretically impossible.
He caught her eye, and again put his finger to his lips calling for secrecy. Haltingly she nodded her agreement.
"This one's still alive," Remus called out, turning over a groaning Death Eater that had a bullet wound in his upper right shoulder and another gash along the ribs on that side.
"Is he now?" Black acknowledged in feral delight, smiling predatorily.
He stepped over toward the pair, with Hermione in tow, just as Remus was pulling off the groaning man's Death Eater mask and pitching it to the side as if it soiled his hand to touch it.
"Flint," Remus acknowledged, remembering his once-student from years ago.
"Hey ya, Flint," Black greeted, as he tipped up his hat to expose more of his face for the Death Eater's recognition.
"Potter," Flint spat back in disgust, although his eyes took on a fearful, wary edge despite his tone.
Black returned a lopsided grin, pleased to be remembered. "Actually it's Black now, but that isn't really gonna matter to you. No sir, what's about to occupy your undivided attention is the questions I ask and the either positive or negative reinforcement you receive as a direct result to how you do or do not answer said questions."
Remus snorted half a laugh in appreciation to that, whilst Dumbledore vented his outrage in "Mr. Potter?!"
Before he could begin yet another unwanted lecture, Harry drew his gun left handed, and had it pointed at Dumbledore's head without even having to look in his direction, knowing his aim was spot on. His undivided attention was currently occupied with watching Flint squirm.
"I've already made my feeling known regarding unwanted criticism." He cocked his revolver meaningfully and added, "or had you forgotten?"
A gulp and a hurried shuffling of feet as the headmaster returned to his post was all the answer he required, and much more appreciated than any verbal apologies.
"Harry… you can't just threaten to… " Hermione began to plead on the headmaster's behalf.
"Leave war to warriors, Hermione," he cautioned, re-holstering his gun without taking his glaring eyes from Flint's cringing form.
"How many are you and what's the current location of that turd you zealots so blindly follow?"
"The Dark Lord will kill you all. You'll beg for release a thousand times before he finally grants oblivion," Flint blustered like the fallen bully he was.
Harry snorted at that. "Talk about a bad apple not falling too far from the diseased tree!"
Considering Flint with a calculating eye before reaching a decision, and sighing in resignation, he promptly stuck a finger right into the bullet hole in the Death Eater's shoulder.
"Argghhhh!" The Death eater screamed and convulsed; blood and spittle dribbling from his mouth as he thrashed and bucked, trying to pull away from the maddening pain, but Black's finger held him in place like a pinned insect.
After several long minutes filled with Hermione gasping in shock and Dumbledore blustering impotently in protest from behind, Black withdrew his finger, wiping the blood and gristle on Flint's Death Eater robes with a casual disregard that was horrifying to the fallen man. In those moments,Flint realized he was soon to learn the true meaning of agony. Something he had far too often instilled in others, but was finally about to fully appreciate the knowledge first hand from the victim's point of view.
Now, when it was already too late, he was considering his life's choices.
"I'm gonna ask you one more time, Flint, and if I don't get a concise and immediate answer, I'm gonna take out that bullet and stick it in the other side, after that, I'm gonna get creative." He paused and gazed deeply into the terrified man's eyes, willing him to see the dread certainty of what he promised he would deliver, and in spades.
Once satisfied that the lesson had sunk in, he asked again: "How many are you and where's Voldemort holed up?"
"Seventy-seven. Voldemort's declared himself minister and is occupying the minister's office currently. M-Most of us are spread throughout the ministry, but there are two guards currently searching each department of the Hall of Mysteries."
Harry nodded thoughtfully. The superstitious creep was still hung up on the power of magical numbers like seven.
Begrudgingly he had to admit that so far things had gone his darkness' way, though that was about to change.
"Are all the aurors and unspeakables dead?" he asked next, noting the way the man's eyes glazed over worriedly at that.
"A...A lot of them are, the rest either escaped during the takeover or were captured and are being incarcerated in holding cells that we liberated our supporters from beforehand. S-Some are…" he paused uncertainly, his eyes shifting towards the door that Dumbledore was guarding as if he was considering the vain possibility of escape.
"You'll never make it," Black cautioned, cocking the hammer of his colt meaningfully, casually holding it poised over his vulnerable chest.
"You were saying?" Black prompted.
"Some of the more d-difficult ones were in the process of being passed through the veil."
Hermione whimpered at that and Remus' face paled dramatically. Voldemort was purging any and all opposition.
Black digested the information and asked cautiously. "You twerps still carry spare wands and emergency port keys?"
"Yes, but… the port keys won't work inside the ministry 'cause The d-dark lord put up wards to prevent any unauthorized access to the ministry."
"Has he now? And just what is the activation code word for said port keys?"
"Blood supremacy, but didn't you hear me? You can't port key in or out with the wards in place, you'd be splinched at best, maybe even…oh?" Flint finally caught on once understanding the feral gleam of appreciation in Black's eyes.
"No you can't, I'll stop... unghh!" Flint foolishly tried to go for the spare wand he had in an ankle holster, but was relieved of his worry by the butt of Black's revolver slamming into his temple.
Black re-holstered his revolver and chuckled dryly. "Well that takes care of our immediate concerns, but now to test a theory… Remus, would you care to do the honors?"
Remus shot him a puzzled expression that cleared up with a pointed look from Black.
"Don't you dare!" Hermione gasped in sudden realization of what he intended, but Remus had already activated the unconscious Death Eater's escape port key.
The Death Eater literally exploded in a cloud of gore that splattered Remus and Hermione.
"Ewu!" Hermione gagged, pulling a blood soaked strand of hair away from her face.
"Haw-Haw-Haw!" Black guffawed at the scene, as Remus was hurriedly casting cleaning charms over his gore covered self and Hermione was coughing and gagging in revulsion, too shocked to even think to do the same.
"Mister Potter!" Dumbledore drawled in outrage, beginning to go into full lecture mode on mercy and fairness etcetera…
"It's Black!" the marshal spat back, silencing the man before he could effectively begin his rant.
"That's one less in the opposition. One less for you to stun and incarcerate, then either let go after some despicable bribe or have escape due to the same or the ineptness of your auror guard. One less to murder and rape, only to have us either catch and start the process all over again, or catch a killing curse in the back from, relieving us of the burden imposed by war. If you can't stomach it then piss off and let those that can-do! Better yet…why don't you make a port key and rid us of your foolishness?"
That said, and Dumbledore pale and significantly cowed, he cast an off-hand wandless cleaning spell over Hermione, who sighed in relief.
"You up for this Hermione or would you like to stay and help Dumbledore continue to guard the door from his own unwise future intervention?"
Her eyes shifted uncertainly from the headmaster's pleading visage to the blood stained floor at her feet.
It was harsh and grisly what had been done, but for all of that she could see the necessity. They had been losing and had effectively lost the war by being fair and merciful. It was more than time, if not too late already, to try a different more harsh tack.
"I'm with you, Harry. I always have been and I always will be," she declared with dread certainty, meeting his steely gaze and holding it.
Black nodded, not bothering to correct her on his naming preference. His eyes shifted toward Remus who was currently adopting a Death Eater's spare wand, seeing the logic and necessity of the tactic.
"I'm with you, pup. It's high time we treated this war as a war."
Black nodded again before shifting his eyes warily toward the headmasters' pleading visage.
"Isn't there some other way…?" Dumbledore beseeched.
"Stay here and wrap the cowardice you call morality around yourself and leave the fighting to those with the stomach for it." That said, and Dumbledore reluctantly nodding in resignation, Black added a warning: "You get in the way or try to interfere in any way, and I'll put a bullet in your head without the slightest pause. Your job is to now guard my means of returning home. If you find yourself getting lonely in the meantime, conjure a mirror so you can talk to the person you admire the most."
Remus snorted a laugh at that, while Dumbledore's moustache drooped to an all-time low.
Black rechecked the draw clearance of his colts while Hermione and Remus broke the spare wands littering the chamber and donned a spare pair of invisibility cloaks whose former owners would no longer be needing the use of. They left their hoods down, awaiting further instructions, though each was pretty sure they knew what Black had in mind.
"Alright sir and mam, you know the magic words, so let's send these idiots back from the land of Oz to Kansas, shall we?" The two nodded with feral grins of anticipation as they pulled their hoods up and completely disappeared.
Voldemort's necessary paranoia was about to be exposed as the tactical disadvantage it was.