Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any of the characters in the Harry Potter books or movies.
Author's Notes: This story is set in an Alternate Universe and while the basic setting of Harry Potter remains (Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, Voldemort, Grindelwald etc.) the Magical World is different from canon and a number of characters will act differently due to their different past.
Many thanks to thekingofsweden1 and rpeh for betaing. They improved the story a lot.
Wiltshire, Britain, November 1st, 1981
"You-Know-Who is dead!" The news spread like wildfire through Wizarding Britain. Wizards and witches danced in the street and fireworks were launched in numbers to even make the muggles take notice. Owls darkened the skies at Hogwarts, taking wing to inform every family. In Little Whinging, a baby was placed on the doorstep of a middle-class family to be raised in safety.
And in the manor of the Malfoy family, the Inner Circle of Voldemort's Death Eaters had gathered. Lucius Malfoy, the Dark Lord's right hand. Bellatrix Lestrange, his chief enforcer. Theophanes Nott, Rabastan and Rodolphus Lestrange, Barty Crouch Jr., Antonin Dolohov, and Augustus Rookwood. Shaken by the news of their Lord's defeat, they were eyeing each other with suspicion in their eyes, knowing that some of those present would be thinking of saving themselves, at the cost of betraying their comrades and the Dark Lord's cause.
"The Dark Lord didn't die! He cannot die!" Bellatrix was standing, daring anyone to contradict her. "He cannot have been defeated by a mere baby! They are lying!"
"But why hasn't he returned to us? Why hasn't he summoned us?" Dolohov braved her ire to ask the question that everyone wanted to ask.
"He has his reasons. He might need our help. We must be searching for him!" The eyes of the witch showed signs of insanity. Lucius Malfoy realised that she was close to losing what shreds of control she still had. Her husband and brother-in-law were agreeing with her, no surprise there, and Crouch voiced his fervent support - the young man had a fanatical glint in his eyes. It was time to speak up.
"You are right." That surprised most of his more level-headed comrades, Lucius knew. "The Dark Lord didn't die. But the blood traitors believe he did. If we are caught searching for him, they'll see this as confirmation, and take heart. Our enemies were on the brink of collapse, we all know that. Mudbloods and blood traitors were fleeing Britain, morale among Aurors was eroding with each day, each dead traitor, and not even Dumbledore would have managed to keep the traitor Minister in power for much longer." The blond wizard stood up and started to walk around the table.
"We would be failing our Lord and his sacred cause were we to openly admit that we have lost contact with him." He spotted Rookwood smiling faintly. "The Dark Lord never died. We need to show that to the rabble opposing us, even without our Lord himself present among us."
Bellatrix looked confused. "What do you mean?"
"The Dark Lord will be seen, in public, striking at his foes, with his trusted followers at his side. The lies of Dumbledore will be exposed." He saw that Rookwood and Dolohov nodded in understanding.
"You mean to take the place of the Dark Lord!" Bellatrix gasped, her hand twitching. The crazy witch was an instant away from denouncing his plan as treason.
"Never! No one can take, no one will be taking his place. But we will crush his enemies in his name so that when he returns he will return to a Britain united under his banner, awaiting his rule." That seemed to placate Bellatrix. "Augustus, can you provide us with the means to fool the blood traitors?"
The Unspeakable nodded. "They will witness the Dark Lord striding towards his enemies, striking them down, and sending them fleeing in renewed terror."
"Tomorrow we'll strike at Diagon Alley and show them that the Dark Lord never died." Lucius knew Bellatrix had to be dealt with, sooner or later, she was just too unstable, but she would be useful in the short term. Her fanatical loyalty towards the Dark Lord was well known, and her presence would help with the ruse.
In a way this development was even fortunate. He was sure that news of the Dark Lord's survival after he had been declared dead would not just destroy Dumbledore's reputation, but also utterly crush the morale of their enemies, and he doubted the Ministry would survive such a blow. And once the war was won and pureblood rule restored, the Dark Lord would be retiring to research the secrets of the Darkest Magic, only appearing a few times in public and leaving the ruling of the country to his trusted advisor and right hand, Lucius Malfoy.
Chapter 1: The New Britain
Wiltshire, Britain, July 29th, 1999, 03.15 hours
Hermione, youngest Wand-Leader of Britain, looked at the smoking ruins of what used to be Malfoy Manor. The field of rubble, illuminated by several globes of lights floating around, formed a stark contrast to the impressive building she knew from her first tour as a guard, before she had been promoted to the Investigative Branch of the Wands of Britain.
She cast several detection spells, frowning at the results. Fiendfyre. That explained the ashes, but given the strength of the walls, erected in medieval times, not even Fiendfyre would have reduced them to rubble. Someone had destroyed the house with Blasting Curses before setting the ruins afire - quite a lot of effort, especially with the Minister's family not at home. She wondered what kind of person would do such. And who'd leave the Dark Mark floating over the remains.
A flash next to her had her in a crouch, wand out, before she realised what had happened. "Colin!"
"What?" The young man blinked at her, lowering his camera.
"Warn me next time!" She shook her head at her fellow Wand. Colin was still a rookie, having graduated just a month ago from Hogwarts' special course for muggleborns, but he was a member of the Wands of Britain. The Ministry's elite didn't make such mistakes.
"Alright!" Colin started to take more pictures of the ruins.
Once again she reconsidered his assignment to her team. A tour as a guard would have taught him a lot about how to act in the field, but then she'd have had to wait six months before having him working for her, and she wanted him as soon as possible - given how rare pensieves were, and how often a pureblood commandeered their use, having the best photographer she had found in her team would help her a lot. He'd shape up soon enough, she told herself. Just like she had told herself for years when she had been tutoring him.
"This is an outrage! A scandal!"
She didn't flinch when she heard Draco Malfoy's whiny voice behind her. Not anymore. She had expected the pureblood wizard to show up. It was, had been, his family home after all. And even if his presence would make her work more difficult, it also meant that the area was now deemed safe by the Wands surrounding it. And that meant the Minister wouldn't be long in coming.
Lucius Malfoy. She smiled thinking of the Hero of Britain. He had saved the country from the blood traitors whose corruption had been ruining it. He had saved her from parents who had abused her so badly, St. Mungo's healers had removed her memories of her earliest childhood. And he had saved the country from the Dark Lord's madness ten years ago.
And there he was, talking to his son. Hermione ground her teeth when she spotted his gloved left hand. A few weeks ago, a dark artifact had been slipped into his room, no doubt the work of Dumbledore's blood traitors. The Minister had been cursed and while he had survived, he had lost his left arm, which had been replaced by a prosthetic. If she ever caught the ones responsible for the attack… but it wasn't her investigation.
The attack on the Malfoy Manor, however, was her case.
She couldn't hear what the Minister said to his son - spells protected their privacy - but it was a rather short discussion. Draco apparated away with a visible scowl, and the Minister called out to her: "Wand-Leader Hermione!"
She hurried over to him, touching the tip of her wand to her chest to salute. "Sir!"
"What did you find out about the attack so far?"
"It was conducted with Blasting Curses, very powerful ones, before Fiendfyre was unleashed. Judging by the blast radiuses, it was the work of a small group at most - there was little variation in the amount of destruction per spell. We haven't found the wardstone yet, so we do not yet know how the wards were broken." Hermione didn't mention the other possible way for an attacker to get past wards: Treason. Only the Minister's family could have done that anyway, and they were beyond suspicion.
Minister Malfoy nodded, and she continued. "The culprits left the Dark Mark floating, though we cannot tell yet whether this is an attempt at misdirection, or if this was one of the last Fanatics who are still at large." A few of the former followers of the Dark Lord had been misguided enough to support him despite his madness when the Minister had fought him, and not every one of those fanatical wizards had been hunted down yet. "We've found a surviving house elf, but he's been unable to form coherent sentences yet." Or as coherent as those elves ever got, at least.
"His mind was probably obliviated, or damaged." The Minister made a dismissive gesture with his artificial arm. "Focus on Fanatics as culprits. Dumbledore's blood traitors wouldn't use such a ruse; in their delusion they want everyone to know of their crimes in an attempt to terrorise the population."
"Yes, sir!" She saluted again as the Minister turned away and started to walk through the ruins of his family home, ashes blown up with each step.
To think anyone would be as craven as to attack this great man in this manner… she'd find the ones responsible, and bring them to justice!
London, Ministry of Magic, July 29th, 1999, 14.07 hours
Lucius Malfoy, British Minister for Magic since 1981, flexed his left hand while he studied the reports and notes on his desk. His artificial arm was still 'adjusting'. In time it should function and even feel as his original one, or so the healers had claimed. It wasn't as good as the one Augustus had made for himself, but Lucius would rather have a muggle hook than attach a prosthetic that the leader of the Unspeakables had made to his own body. He didn't think his old comrade would betray him, but only a fool would trust him - in his place, Lucius would certainly hide some 'precautions' in such a limb. He scoffed.
He started to read the preliminary report from Hermione again. As usual, it was far more detailed than most final reports from others. Unfortunately, it didn't contain much useful information. Which, given the eager little mudblood's talent, said something about the skill of the attacker. But he had known that already.
A knock at his door interrupted his reading. His wand was in his hand in an idle looking gesture before he answered - given recent events, it was better to be a bit paranoid. "Yes?"
His secretary, Daphne Greengrass, entered. "Minister. Severus Snape has arrived with your potions."
"Send him in, please." He graciously nodded at the girl. It wouldn't do, even for him, to treat a pureblood daughter of a prominent family with less than the utmost courtesy. Even though she was mostly a piece of fluff he'd not trust with anything important. If only Davis wasn't a half-blood, and therefore unsuitable for this position...
Severus entered, black robes billowing. As soon as the door had closed behind him, the pale man dropped his potion bag to the floor and took a seat. "We won't be able to use the cover of me providing you with potions due to your injury much longer."
"I'll make you an advisor in Defense matters," Lucius said.
"The Dark Lord will expect me to provide him with more information about your plans once I'm officially your advisor."
Lucius nodded. "Carefully chosen information, which will strengthen your cover and earn you more trust. No one suspects you yet, I hope?"
"None. Bellatrix doesn't trust me, but she doesn't trust anyone who did not flee Britain with her, and she'd never go against the will of the Dark Lord."
"Who does trust you," Lucius said, smiling. "How did the Dark Lord react to my family's absence last night?"
"He was furious," Severus said, rubbing his left arm briefly and trembling. Lucius managed not to shudder - cutting his own arm off had been a small price to pay to be free of that madman's grasp, but as a double-agent, Severus couldn't do that. His spy continued: "I managed to deflect most of his anger though, by pointing out that no one could have predicted that deadlock in the Wizengamot, which led to you and your family joining the Notts for dinner to straighten it out."
The Minister smiled. That had gone as planned. His family was safe and the Notts would find it much harder to change sides now, being blamed for foiling - even unknowingly - this attack. If only he had had more time to prepare a trap or an ambush. But he hadn't yet the numbers of Wands who'd overcome the Dark Lord. At least not Wands he could trust with his life. And it would only have bought them another grace period - until all his Horcruxes were dealt with, the Dark Lord would return.
"Has he told you about his next plans yet?"
"No." The potioneer shook his head. "I am certain he'll strike again, at others who have betrayed him, but I couldn't tell who will be his next targets."
Lucius started to rub his chin, but stopped. His left hand still felt wrong, and his right held his wand. Just in case. "There's not much we can do then. The Wands are already on alert." Though the mudbloods didn't know yet that the Dark Lord had returned. And they wouldn't ever, if Lucius could help it. They'd be fighting a mad pretender and fanatical but delusional Death Eaters. He leaned back in his seat. "Tell him that I'm terrified, and nervous. That I suspect treason in my ranks. Play the skills of the mudbloods down, so he'll keep underestimating them."
Severus scowled at that. Lucius smiled indulgently. His old friend, even though he was a half-blood himself, scorned mudbloods and was quite critical of the Wands of Britain. If he'd only consent to give some Defense lessons to them he'd see how talented and useful they could be, but the man loathed teaching even more than he loathed mudbloods.
The potioneer nodded, handing him an empty vial to dispose of, to maintain their cover. "Give my regards to Narcissa and Draco."
Beauxbatons, France, July 31st, 1999, 10.00 hours
Albus Dumbledore, professor of Alchemy at Beauxbatons, looked up from the desk in his private quarters, his wand ready, when the door to his office was opened from the outside.
"Albus! Where are you?"
When he heard the loud voice of the school's Headmistress, Olympe Maxime, he relaxed - slightly. "I am in my quarters," he answered, using his wand to open the door connecting his flat with his office. "Come in!"
The half-giant witch entered with a frown, waving a newspaper in his face. Ah! "Albus! According to this…" She hesitated a second.
"Rag?" he prompted with a smile.
"... article," she went on with a glare, "the home of the British Minister for Magic has been attacked and destroyed. A mere few weeks after an assassination attempt on him with some unknown dark item." She sat down on the chair in his room, which creaked under her weight, despite the spells reinforcing it.
"Ah, yes. I read the article this morning. Terrible business, indeed, but knowing the minister, not really surprising. He has a lot of enemies." Of course he had known about both events before the newspapers, much less the public, had learned of them. Severus was as skilled as he was brave, after all.
His nominal superior glared at him. "Were you involved in this affair?"
He put on his most sincere expression. "Olympe, I give you my word that neither myself nor any friend of mine were behind those attacks." He wasn't even lying, technically.
Judging by the slightly embarrassed tone of Olympe, she believed him. "I'm sorry for jumping to conclusions, Albus, but you know how much pressure I'm under from the Duc."
"I know, Olympe." He was well aware of how much the Duc D'Orléans, the ruler of Magical France, wanted to avoid a conflict with Wizarding Britain. But he also knew just how much the Duc needed him as a deterrent against any possible ambition from Britain's new ruler - the Malfoys had been a French family, originally, before fleeing to Britain three centuries ago after a feud with the d'Orléans. As long as the Duc had plausible deniability, he'd not bother Albus's plans. Even better, he was certain that once Lucius's position was sufficiently weakened, the Duc would be all too willing to actively help the British resistance in order to rid himself of his ancient foe.
To reach that point though would take time.
"Good. British business should remain in Britain." Olympe sniffed disapprovingly, as she was wont to do when talking about Albus's home country.
"It should, but it will not. The kind of people who rule Britain are not the kind to be satisfied with one country. Just like Grindelwald, they will build up their forces, and then they will strike," Albus said.
He saw the Headmistress flinch when he mentioned Gellert. Contrary to Britain, which had not really suffered in Grindelwald's War, France and most other countries of magical Europe had never forgotten the atrocities committed by Gellert's Storm Wizards. And they hadn't forgotten who had defeated that Dark Lord. He continued: "And you know how Malfoy and his cronies think about 'impure' wizards and witches." Such as half-giants.
"I'm not afraid of them." Olympe narrowed her eyes at him.
"I know you are not. But what about your Veela students? Would you want to see them reduced to pets like in Bulgaria? Trotted out as mascots to perform?"
"That will never happen! If they dare to invade France, we will beat them. Even if it takes another hundred years, we'll throw them back over the channel."
"And how many wizards and witches will die in that war? How many died in the Hundred Years' War?" Albus leaned forward. "Why wait until they have recovered the strength they have lost conquering Britain, before fighting them?"
"You've been saying they'll invade for almost 20 years now. They haven't."
"They haven't had the wands. But it's been a generation. They'll soon be ready. You know what they have been doing to muggleborns." Kidnapping children, and raising them to oppress their own kind - Lucius certainly had proved why he had been able to betray the Dark Lord!
Olympe stood up. "You always say the same things. You'll never change." She nodded at him. "Good day, Albus. I have things to do."
Albus smiled ruefully while she left. His colleague wasn't stupid, but she and many others didn't want to accept what was happening. Didn't want to know what was obvious to anyone studying Britain. If only the Duc had heeded his advice, back when Albus had come to France. Or the ICW. Lucius's regime would have been crushed easily. But no one had wanted to create a precedent for intervening in another sovereign country.
He leaned back in his seat. And so it had fallen to him to take the steps needed to prevent a Dark Lord from threatening Magical Europe. Again. Even if that took helping another Dark Lord to return from the dead. And sending young people into lethal danger.
Outside Argelès-sur-Mer, France, July 31st, 1999, 14.00 hours
Ron Weasley passed by the buffet set up at the edge of the field and got himself another plateful. He had missed Beauxbatons' food in the year since he had graduated. Mum was a great cook, but she was distinctively and stubbornly British - and Ron preferred French food. Not that he'd ever say that at home, he'd never hurt his mum.
Munching on a few pommes frites, he watched the rest of the guests mingling with each other. It looked like most of his year was present - no surprise, Harry and Neville both were popular mecs, and they had celebrated their birthdays together for years. The two were standing near a wizard tent, talking with Neville's gran. The old bat was probably complaining about the birthday cake again - the feud between her and mum was almost legendary, ever since the Weasleys had all but adopted Harry and Neville. And this year's cake was truly magnificent. Big enough to feed twice the number of guests who attended, and delicious if the samples he had tried when she had been testing her recipe were any indication.
Catching sight of his sister, Ginny, who was stalking towards the group in what looked like the latest and most daring robe from Paris, Ron smirked. At least he now knew where her signing bonus from the Avignon Aigles had gone. Mum would be furious. Even with all her children now working and earning gold, she had never forgotten just how bad things had been shortly after their arrival in France, and for years afterwards, until Bill had secured that post at the Gendarmerie Magique and Charlie had become the best seeker in all of France. Even if he had to wear shocking pink robes on a broom.
Ron finished his plate while Ginny greeted her boyfriend enthusiastically. A bit too enthusiastically, Ron thought, but then, his sister was still concerned about other witches 'moving in on her wizard', as she had put it. She probably wouldn't relax until she had married the mec.
At least Harry didn't seem to mind. By the time they separated, Neville and his grand-mère had left for the tent, probably to get out of the burning sun for a while.
Ron vanished his plate and started to walk towards the couple. Ginny spotted him first.
He smiled widely. "Hi there. Did you arrive directly from Paris?" He was rather certain she had - mum wouldn't have let her wear that robe to the party if she had gone home first.
"Yes, otherwise I'd have been late," his little sister said.
He shook his head, chuckling. "Mum's going to go spare, you know."
Ginny scoffed. "She can go spare all she wants, I'm an adult now, I'm earning my own money, and I'm dressing how I want!" Her claim of maturity was only slightly marred by her pouting expression, in Ron's opinion.
"So, finally caught up to me again? No longer a year behind?" Ron asked, grinning at Harry.
His friend laughed at the old, very familiar joke. Ginny rolled her eyes, but then, she had thought the joke stupid when Ron had first made it, years ago. He nodded towards the tent. "Same old argument?"
Harry nodded. "The usual." He looked at Ron's robes - average, civilian ones. "You're not on duty?"
"I quit, actually," Ron answered, after a quick privacy spell.
"What?" Ginny blurted out, staring at him. "Why? What did Mum say about that? What are you going… oh!" She held a hand in front of her mouth when she understood.
He nodded at her. "I'm heading to Britain tomorrow. It's time." A gendarme of Magical France couldn't be involved in an undercover operation in Britain. A civilian however...
His sister gasped. "But your career…"
He shrugged. "It only ever was a way to get more training. Not like Bill's."
Harry grumbled something that sounded like 'lucky you' under his breath. Or 'lucky guy'.
Ginny turned towards her boyfriend at once. "Are you going as well?" Ron couldn't tell if she wanted him to say yes or no. He didn't think she knew it either.
Harry shook his head. "No. I'm staying with Dumbledore." He hugged the relieved girl.
Ron raised his eyebrows at his friend. There was a story behind this, he knew - Harry had been roaring to go with him and the others, and ranting when Dumbledore had told him he couldn't. He had a feeling his friend wouldn't exactly be staying safely at Beauxbatons and assisting Dumbledore. He knew the mec well.
Ginny turned around, but stayed in Harry's arms. "You're not going alone. Who else is going?"
"Percy and the twins." No need to try to keep that a secret. Ginny would hear about that anyway. "And a few others." Those names she'd not learn.
She gaped again. "Mum is going to blow up!"
"That's why Dumbledore's the one who will tell her. He has the best chances to survive it."
Ron and his brothers would be safely in Britain by that time.
London, Ministry of Magic, July 31st, 1999, 19.17 hours
"Hermione! Any comment about the attack on the Minister's manor?"
Hermione, on her way to the Floo connections in the Ministry's atrium, turned around when she heard Luna Lovegood call her name. She waited until the blonde pureblood witch had reached her before answering: "I'm sorry, but Ministry policy prohibits any member of the Wands from commenting on cases, ongoing or closed." As Luna knew perfectly well - Hermione had told her that half a dozen times in the weeks since the other witch had started to work full-time as a journalist for her father's magazine.
"Of course! But I'm not asking about a case, I'm asking about the dragon attack!" Luna smiled widely and brandished a scroll to take notes.
"Dragon attack?" Had she missed an attack by a dragon?
"Yes! The Malfoy Manor was destroyed by fire and great force - the trademarks of a dragon attack! Do you think that the dragon was smuggled over the border, or did it escape from Gringotts?"
Even after years of having known the quirky witch - about the only pureblood student at Hogwarts who would mingle with the muggleborns, and the reasons for that still made Hermione angry years after it had been dealt with - the Wand-Leader kept getting surprised by her friend's theories. She tried to find a safe answer: "I do not think that there is currently a dragon in Britain, outside Gringotts."
Luna scribbled down a few notes, mumbling "Ministry unaware of location of dragon." Looking up, she asked: "I guess that means there are no measures being taken to capture the animal?"
"You would have to ask that question of a member of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, Luna," Hermione said.
Her friend pouted. "They are never open when I try to visit."
That didn't surprise Hermione. The Lovegoods were, if not quite infamous, well-known in that particular department for scaring the more gullible parts of the population with tales of dangerous imaginary and not so imaginary beasts and how they could appear in Britain. That Luna's father had been crucial in identifying a Chinese Vampire the department had missed ten years ago hadn't helped the relationship between the premier naturalist of Britain and the DRCMC any. "Well, if there is a dragon on the loose, then they'd be very busy I think," she said, then winced when Luna quickly scribbled down another note. She really needed to learn to hold her tongue.
Fortunately for the Lovegoods, the Minister was very fond of the Quibbler, finding their articles both amusing and a nice diversion, which he had claimed once in her presence when the head of the DRCMC had demanded that he shut down that magazine.
"That'll be my next article!" Luna stated, finishing her notes. and beaming at her. "So… do you want to catch dinner with me?" She added "at the Cauldron" before Hermione could ask if she meant it literally, like that time in Hermione's seventh year.
"I would love to," the muggleborn witch answered, relieved. Luna smiled, and grabbed her arm - her left arm, not her wand arm. A Wand had to be always ready.
Before they reached the next Floo connection though, it lit up and Draco Malfoy stepped out of it. Hermione snapped to attention. The Minister's son was a 'Special Consultant' to his father, and as such, he was officially in her chain of command. Just like he had been as a 'Special Prefect' and later Head Boy in Hogwarts when she had attended the school.
The blond wizard nodded at her, then stopped. "Hermione. It has been a while, hasn't it?"
"Yes, sir." When she saw his smile turn into a familiar smirk, she quickly cleared her mind of the disgust she felt. And the guilt at feeling that way towards the son of the Minister. Her guilt at having studied Occlumency from a stolen book at Hogwarts despite muggleborns being banned from that discipline she had rationalized away long ago - it was better to break a rule than lose her temper and hurt the Minister's son.
"After that attack on my father's manor, I think I need an additional guard for the night. Wait here, I'll be back shortly after meeting my father."
She didn't relax her stance until the wizard had stepped into the main lift. Then she took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, Luna."
"You don't have to do this."
"Wands obey," she quoted the first rule.
"He shouldn't be giving those kind of orders, then." Luna pushed her chin forward, but she looked pouting more than defiant.
"It's OK." Hermione hugged her.
Luna shook her head when she stepped into the fireplace. "It's not, and you know it," she whispered before she vanished in green fire.
Hermione took a deep breath, then checked if she had a spare robe in her expanded pouch. Sometimes Draco didn't let a witch disrobe, but simply vanished her clothes. After what had happened to Sally-Anne, who had been caught naked in the hallway by a teacher, most female Wands had started to carry spare robes.
Checking the clock on the wall opposite her, she wondered how long she'd have to wait.