Disclaimer: Standard stuff (I don't own anything, I won't be making profit, any resemblance to previously published content is purely coincidental, JK Rowling is the coolest, etc.). If I make any legal errors regarding copyrighted material, inform me and I will correct them immediately.
Important Information: This story is canon-compliant up to—but not including—the infamously-disappointing epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Harry Potter and the Labyrinth
20:44 (Local), May 2, 1945
Outskirts of Berlin, Germany
Nobody else was fighting; there was no point. Everyone present knew that the outcome of the battle would depend entirely upon the outcome of the duel between the two opposing generals. As the duel wore on, it was slowly becoming painfully clear who the victor would be.
A quick peek out of the corner of his eye—any further distraction would spell ruin, in the face of his old friend's power and skill—confirmed that his ruse was working. Even his most devoted supporters had despair written all over their faces, as their fearless leader appeared to be tiring. He allowed the next incoming spell, a massively powerful explosion curse, to shatter his high-frequency shield, staggering backward as the low-frequency deflector just barely contained the remaining force of the blast. Ah, yes, yes, go for it, you soft-hearted fool...
Sensing that victory was suddenly within his grasp, his opponent followed up the explosion curse with a salvo of high-frequency stunning hexes.
The tall blond wizard smiled inwardly, while outwardly schooling his expression to one of disbelief and panic. He had always been able to fool his old friend—now, his plan required that he act out one more scene...and then simply wait, for what could possibly be a very long time. It was a cunning scheme, and it would require every iota of his conviction, but it would work. It had to work.
The fusillade of high-frequency stunners blew through the already-overtaxed low-frequency shield. A rousing cheer went up on one side of the field, while scores of wizards on the other side began to flee or toss down their wands in surrender. Albus Dumbledore took no notice; he simply lowered his smoking wand and looked at the fallen figure before him, knowing that it was only his old friend's exhaustion from a previous battle earlier that day which had allowed him to carry the day; he could conceive of no other explanation for the defeat in battle of the wielder of that wand.
He strode forward and bent down to pick up the long, smooth stick, rolling it between his fingers to examine its surface. It was ancient, it even felt ancient, but the surface of the dark gray wood was completely unmarred. Dumbledore didn't quite have Garrick's vast knowledge of wandlore, but even he could feel the dark power thrumming through this wand...his wand, now. Slipping it into his sleeve, he turned his attention back to his defeated opponent, tears rolling silently down his cheeks.
"How did we ever come to this?"
02:08 (Local), October 20, 2004
Curtain Wall of Peel Castle, Isle of Man, UK
Harry Potter looked back just in time to see Auror John Dawlish get tackled by a large glashtyn (a distant cousin of the kelpie, and only found on the Isle of Man) in its natural form. While glashtyns were shapeshifters, they usually only did that to try to seduce human women; in a fight, the semi-aquatic creatures almost always returned to their powerful bull-like forms. This one was currently grappling with Dawlish and trying to gore him in the face with its long, curved horns. Goddammit Dawlish, we don't have time for this!
"Whitby, give him a hand!" Harry shouted, barely making himself heard over the sound of the rain. This was Auror Trainee Kevin Whitby's first field assignment, but Harry knew that the younger man—who had been sorted into Hufflepuff in Harry's fourth year at Hogwarts—had been a part of the resistance during the Lost School Year (as many Hogwarts alumni referred to the 1997-1998 academic year), and could handle himself at least as well as Dawlish. On the other hand, Dawlish—despite his quick wand—had an unfortunate susceptibility to confounding and memory-altering spells and a frustrating tendency to follow orders to the letter, without ever taking any initiative. "I'll go on alone!"
Whitby instantly complied, turning back to engage the glashtyn. Harry continued onward along the top of the curving curtain wall, knowing that he would be alone from here on out, as the other two would have their hands full for a while; if there was one glashtyn in a fighting mood, there would soon be dozens, especially at this time of year. That's probably why Dolohov fled here, the clever bastard.
Ivan Dolohov, the son of the long-dead Antonin Dolohov by way of the much-longer-dead Ilene Mulciber, had learned dark magic at the hand of his late father and—Harry suspected, based on the skill with which Ivan was throwing around some fairly terrible dark magic—Tom Riddle himself. Antonin and Tom had been allies, if not quite friends, since their time at Hogwarts together; Dolohov, Rosier, Nott, Avery, and the Mulciber twins had formed Voldemort's original inner circle, and were the only Death Eaters who had known his true name. When Voldemort was first rising to power, he had been charismatic, handsome, and brilliant, teaching his loyal followers some of the dark magic that he had learned; it was only later, once he had truly come to power, that Tom Riddle became paranoid and began to guard his knowledge jealously. Thus, many of his earlier followers (and, if they had children quickly enough, their children) were much more knowledgeable and powerful than the sycophantic weaklings that had taken the Dark Mark later, once Voldemort no longer had a direct hand in training the Death Eaters.
As evidenced by the gruesome nature of the recent string of murders—some ritualistic, some clearly just for the good old-fashioned joy of killing—and the extremely dark spells that had been flung at Harry's strike team since the beginning of the running fight nearly a day and a half ago, Ivan Dolohov was a member (and, in fact, likely the last such member) of that dark legacy. Though the Dolohov family had dabbled in the dark arts for generations, no scion of their line had ever quite checked all the boxes to claim the title of Dark Lord. Ivan had the ambition, the experience, the knowledge, and maybe even the power, at least at the lower end of the Dark Lord scale...but not quite the charisma or the followers. Nevertheless, he was a murderer dozens of times over, and Harry had drawn the assignment—straight from the Minister's office, no less—to track him down. Shacklebolt had simply handed Harry a Gray Warrant for Ivan Dolohov, wished him luck, and sent him on his way. Dolohov could be taken in either dead or alive, but Shacklebolt's preference was clear, and Harry had to agree; it was likely that only pureblood politics had prevented Shacklebolt from issuing a Black Warrant straight away. Some of the darkest and richest of the remnants of the traditional pureblood faction had probably argued in favor of a White Warrant, but even then only on principle (for the sake of opposing the moderates, that is); in reality, they probably wanted Dolohov dead as much as or more than everyone else, as their businesses tended to run more smoothly without a maniac running around and killing people.
Harry was hard-pressed to keep up with the taller Dolohov as he sprinted along the curtain wall, especially since Dolohov kept trying to...discourage...pursuit. Two disarmed runic traps (each of which would have literally turned Harry inside-out while simultaneously disintegrating his lungs), five vanished clouds of corrosive and explosive aerosolized potions, and four dodged Killing Curse potshots later, Harry was becoming well and truly irritated at this particular dark wizard, who apparently knew that this was the endgame and was now playing for keeps. Every spell, potion, ward, trap, and even melee attack from here on out would be employed with lethal intent. Then again, if Harry didn't catch up soon, the point would be moot.
October on the Isle of Man was a wet, miserable month, and being there at two in the morning made things much worse. Through the freezing-cold rain, Harry could barely make out Dolohov's form as it darted toward the keep. Fuck. If Dolohov made it to the actual castle, it would be a hell of a time rooting him out. The anti-apparition and anti-portkey wards laid down by the support team would keep Dolohov from escaping outright, but it would be almost suicidally dangerous to chase a skilled dark wizard through a defensible fortress. Dolohov was already too far away, and moving too fast. There was only one thing for it, then.
Most Aurors and Hit-Wizards carried two wands: a primary (usually the one that had "chosen" them when they were eleven years old) and a back-up. Harry, though, carried four: his old and faithful holly and phoenix feather wand (which he preferred for its versatility and finesse), the yew and phoenix feather wand (which he used for spells requiring a bit more raw power) he had won from Tom Riddle at the Battle of Hogwarts, the hawthorn and unicorn hair wand (a rather well-balanced back-up) he had won from Draco Malfoy in his escape from Malfoy Manor, and...the other wand. The long, dark-gray wand he had won from Draco without even realizing it at the time. The Elder Wand.
Harry rarely used the Elder Wand. He had originally intended to set it aside entirely...until three years ago, when he had found himself alone and pinned down by four Death Eaters who had escaped from captivity during the transfer of all prisoners to Nurmengard (which did not rely upon the unacceptably-fickle dementors for security and punishment, and had stood empty since Voldemort murdered Grindelwald in his cell in 1998). Then, in desperation, he had drawn the Elder Wand...and blown all four escaped convicts to shreds with one spell. Now, he found himself using it in situations that required more power or range than he could channel through any of his other wands.
Harry sighted carefully down the length of the smooth wood. He could feel the dark appetite of the wand as it thrummed in his hand, almost growling with anticipation; the Elder Wand practically cried out to be used to destroy, to ruin...to take lives. Almost reluctantly, Harry was about to oblige it.
"Telum lux!" Harry intoned. The sound of his voice was entirely lost in the roar of the downpour, and a bolt of brilliant white energy—moving so fast that it blurred into a laser-like beam—lit up the night. Some of the light diffracted and reflected off of the falling rain, and for a brief instant the dreary old castle looked almost like a disco hall from the 1970's. Nearly a hundred yards away, Dolohov's sprinting form stumbled and fell into two halves; in the fading light from the spell, Harry could see steam rising from the neatly-cauterized wounds that separated the halves of what had been the other wizard's back.
Harry felt a sort of grim satisfaction emanating from the Wand, and hastily slid it back into its holster, not wanting to indulge in the same feeling himself. It was hard not to, though; he had done alone and in an instant (albeit an instant hard-earned after a 36-hour chase) what a dozen other Auror strike/support teams had failed to do over the last six years. Ivan Dolohov, a would-be Dark Lord and the only son of Antonin Dolohov, was dead by Harry's hand, long before his ambitions would ever be realized.
07:56 (Local), October 20, 2004
Office 201, Auror Headquarters, Ministry of Magic, London, UK
"You've got to be kidding me! I just spent four and a half bloody hours filling out all that paperwork!"
"Sorry, sir," the clerk said, clearly not sorry at all...or, at least, not sorry enough. "The Senior Undersecretary requested your presence at the debriefing personally."
Head Auror Harry Potter was not impressed. "Is Percy aware that I spent thirty-six hours chasing a dark wizard across the entire bloody country in the middle of a bloody monsoon, and then another four and a half hours sitting here filling out all the bloody paperwork that he mandated for any Gray Warrant takedown? Is he aware that I'm so exhausted that I may have trouble distinguishing friend from foe, and that I'm so keyed up on Pepper-Up Potion that I might just do something about it?"
"I'm sorry, sir," the bureaucrat repeated nervously, backing toward the door. "You have to be there. The meeting starts in five minutes."
With that, the Junior Assistant to the Senior Undersecretary to the Minister of Magic (as the young intern had pompously introduced himself a few minutes before) fled from Harry's office toward the elevators down the hall. Harry could hear snickers and a bit of outright laughter from the bullpen, and maybe even the muted clinks of coins exchanging hands. He was glad that the troops were having a decent time, at least; he, on the other hand, was the next closest thing to miserable. Why the hell did I ever agree to take this bloody job?
"Where are you going, boss?" Whitby called from the bullpen as Harry stalked from his office. Harry grinned, smelling another bet in the offing, and let the question hang for a few moments.
"I'm going to have a chat with an old friend," Harry drawled, deliberately not turning around (it simply wouldn't do for him, as their superior officer, to see the wagers they had lined up). Shacklebolt had been an Auror, he knew how things were—he'd be able to rein in Percy, and then Harry would get to go home and finally, finally get some sleep. "Looks like I gotta go see a man about a weasel."
The laughter followed him out to the elevator, and this time, he could definitely hear the clinks of coins.
Two minutes later, after a brief, expletive-filled word with a rapidly-conciliatory Kingsley Shacklebolt—the Minister of Magic, and more importantly, Percy Bloody Weasley's boss—and a quick bit of Floo travel, Harry staggered into his flat and collapsed onto his sofa. Exhausted from a hard few days and emotionally wrung-out from a rather Black takedown on a Gray Warrant, he fell asleep before he even took his boots off.
As of 9/9/2014, I've edited the title of this story to "Harry Potter and the Labyrinth." This story has seen fairly poor view numbers, and I suspect that the shitty title may have been partly to blame (in addition to people being reluctant to start reading an in-progress story).
Please review and let me know if you like where this is going.