Eleven-year-old Harriet Potter politely nodded as Dumbledore rambled on about the next great adventure and so on. She didn't let on that she was disturbed by his blase dismissal of death, especially after she had come so close to it. 'Not that anyone other than Ron or Hermione would care if I died,' she thought grimly. 'Snape, Malfoy, and the rest of the Slytherins would probably get over their distaste for Muggles long enough to reach out to the Dursleys and hold a celebratory party. A party that would degenerate into violence as soon as Vernon idiotically calls one of the "freaks" as he is wont to do.'
Pleading tiredness and exhaustion, Harriet watched with half-lidded eyes as Dumbledore left the Hospital Wing, blue robes swirling behind him. After confronting Quirrell at the end of the obstacle course and barely managing to keep him away from the Philosopher's Stone, Harriet had been unconscious for the last two weeks. She was gratified by the "tokens of appreciation" at the foot of her bed but was unsure how much of it could be attributed to her status as the "Girl-Who-Lived" and how much to true, abiding concern for her well-being. 'If I weren't Harriet Potter, would these people still bother worrying about me this much?' she wondered.
When Harriet had first entered the Wizarding World, years of cynicism had fallen away, and she had reverted to being the wide-eyed naif that she had once been. Her first glimpse of Diagon Alley only seemed to affirm her sense of wonder at this new world. 'I am finally among others like me. Maybe I can find friends and be normal after all.'
Those hopes were dashed after her first contact with Malfoy in Madam Malkin's. Wizarding-Dudley had shown her that wizards were still people - for all their magic, they were still arrogant, conceited pricks, maybe even more so than the Dursleys or the rest of the Muggles themselves. After Malfoy had dismissed her as a "Mudblood" due to her ignorance about the House system, she had bought several books about recent events in wizarding history, along with some about pureblood-etiquette. They had been most educational as she had read about how the wizarding world had stagnated over the last thousand years - how there had been few advances in the theory or application of magic since the days of the Founders, how power remained in the hands of a select group of families and how these families reinforced their hold by propagating the concept of "pure-bloodedness." Not to mention the highly patriarchical nature of the society.
'Gods, this is worse than the Muggle - garrr, mundane - world,' Harriet had thought. At least in the mundane world, women had gained significant rights over the last few decades and were continuing to make headway. If she could somehow escape from the Dursleys, Harriet could become a teacher, a pilot, an astronaut, a scientist - whatever she wanted to be. The sky was the limit. On the other hand, in the wizarding world, she would most likely be consigned to life as a "housewife;" at most, given her status as the bloody "Girl-Who-Lived," she would be able to become a high-ranking Ministry flunky. 'And don't get me started on becoming a professor at Hogwarts,' she thought grimly. 'As much as I love this school, I do want to experience life on the outside as well.'
Harriet had always possessed an inquisitive, research-oriented mind. Whenever the Dursleys' back had been turned, she had snuck into Dudley's room and used his computer to find the answers to all her questions about the world - how to tell time from the position of the sun, why fertilizer and pesticides helped Petunia's plants grow stronger, how did phones and computers work, and so on. She compounded her inquiries on Wikipedia and Google by perusing books at the school library, which she initially frequented as a means of avoiding Dudley and his cohorts. They would never come within a mile of the place, even to beat her.
When she entered the Wizarding World, Harriet's inquisitive nature did not suddenly disappear; instead, it actually got amplified by the seeming impossibilities around her. She spent evenings talking to the ghosts, trying to understand how they managed to live on after death. Were they just imprints, or were they the actual souls? What did they remember from the moments before they had died?
She began cursing her placement into Gryffindor House within a day itself; the Hat had told her that she would do well in any of the houses, so she had duly pushed for Ravenclaw - the house of the intelligent. The hat even seemed to agree with her decision - she definitely had the necessary intelligence and curiosity, and she prized knowledge for its own sake. But at the last second, something seemed to force it to yell, "GRYFFINDOR!" Looking back, Harriet suspected the blue-robed old man with twinkling eyes who had just left the Hospital Wing a few moments ago.
'I don't know what your game is, Albus Dumbledore. Warning the whole school away from visiting the third-floor corridor - that practically guaranteed that everyone would go check it out at the earliest available opportunity. Worse, since everyone was interested about it, it became difficult to identify the real thief. I mean, how was I supposed to know that Snape was trying to defend the stone when Quirrell and half-a-dozen other professors were also in that corridor at various points in the day but managed to not get bitten?'
'Then, the invisibility cloak - you gifted it to me over Christmas. Why wait that long? If it was a family heirloom as you had claimed, why did you not give it to me as soon as I entered the school? More to the point, you were waiting for me by the Mirror of Erised; you obviously wanted me to find it. So, was this entire "adventure" just a ploy to see how I would fare against Voldemort? To give me experience fighting him because I'm your weapon?'
Harriet rubbed her eyes to ward off sleep. She HAD to think through this now, while her doubts were still fresh in her mind. Living with Dursleys had drilled, 'Question everyone and everything,' into her; by telling her to 'Shut up' every time that she had asked a question, they had ensured that she would go to any lengths to find an answer, whether they knew it or not. And the revelation that they had been hiding knowledge of her magic from her for all these years had only reinforced her belief in that mantra.
"I am the master of my fate, the captain of my soul," she repeated aloud. She loved the poem, "Invictus" - she loved the idea of freedom and independence that it captured. 'I will not let others direct my fate like a puppet on strings.'
'Back to work - Dumbledore carefully maneuvered events so that I would end up fighting Voldemort over the Philosopher's Stone by the end of this school year. From sending Hagrid to recover me and the Stone on the same day to -" she froze.
'What if he positioned Ron and Hermione to be my friends? How do I know that I can trust them?' she thought panickedly. After all, it had been Ron's vehement denunciations of Slytherins that had first poisoned her mind against the house; Malfoy obviously hadn't helped, but he wasn't the entire House, was he? In hindsight, her thrill at meeting a friendly new person and making her first friend had overridden her usual open-mindedness and cautiousness. 'After the hat made its decision, I accepted the decision a little too easily at the time. Heck, I was even glad - thought that I was getting a chance to be with friends.'
'So, in a nutshell, Dumbledore wants me to fight Voldemort. From his refusal to tell me about the reasons that the Dark Tosser went after me and my parents, I can surmise that I am destined to fight him or some hogwash like that. After all, Voldemort could have just taken me and trained me to be his chief servant after killing my parents. From what I've read about his rise, he certainly seems subtle and intelligent enough to do that; it's actually more along his modus operandi than rashly trying to kill a baby.'
'And Dumbledore isn't telling me any of this because - I'm a child? He wants me to stay under his thumb? Why? And how did the Tosser survive all these years anyway? So many questions, so few answers, so little time.'
As Harriet slowly fell into oblivion, a thought reverberated in her head, 'One thing is for sure - I need to get ready. I survived because of luck this time. Next time, I have to end this.'
Harriet waved goodbye to Ron and Hermione and watched her friends disappear into the crowd in King's Cross Station. She turned and saw her purple-faced whale of an "uncle" waiting for her.
"All right, girl, get in the car," he spit at her.
Double-checking that there were no other wizards around her (they were so easy to tell apart from the mundanes around them; the robes, owls, and trunks were dead giveaways), Harriet shook her head. "'Vernon, I am going to ask you for one favor and one favor only. Take me to this address" - she handed him a slip of paper - "and you will never have to see me again after today."
Vernon's eyes bugged, and Harriet could see the tug-of-war being waged in his puny mind. On one hand, he would have to satisfy Harriet's request, which he wanted to deny just out of habit; on the other hand, he would never have to see the "freak" again.
The latter won out. "All right, girl. Get in the car," he barked.
Harriet obeyed, and the two drove off. Buildings flew by, and the urban milieu eventually gave way to the lush greenery of the English countryside. After what seemed like hours, the car finally pulled to a stop in front of a stately mansion.
"All right, girl, this is your stop. Now, get out! I never want to see your face again!" Vernon said gruffly.
Harriet grabbed her trunk and stepped out of the car daintily. 'Thank God that I got one of the Prefects to cast a Featherlight charm on the trunk,' she thought.
"Goodbye, Vernon. I hope, for your sake, that we never meet again," she replied stiffly. 'Because our next meeting would end in blood, you bastard.'
As Vernon drove off, Harriet felt a pang of sadness - 'what would it be like to actually have a loving family and miss seeing them drive off?' But her practical nature won out, and shaking her head, she walked towards the manor.
Green eyes met icy blue for a few minutes - neither party broke eye contact.
Then, the owner of the blue eyes finally shook his head in approval - the girl had guts and gumption, he would give her that. He began speaking, "So, Ms. Potter, why did you wish to meet with this old man today?"
Harriet took a deep breath; the first hurdle had been cleared. "Sir, my full name is Harriet Jane Potter, and I am a witch. I read about your family in a book on advances in magical theory over the last five centuries. Until the magical bloodline died out in the 1800s, your ancestors consistently pushed the boundaries of magic in an otherwise stagnant world. Some of those very same ancestors used their considerable knowledge to advocate meager changes in the Ministry's stance towards mundanes and other races. Others provided significant aid to law-enforcement, bringing down many an aspiring Dark Lord."
Raising her hand to forestall denials, she arched an eyebrow and said, "I can read between the lines, you know. Archibald Slytherin, a.k.a Dark Lord Veneficus, fell due to an overpowered, rebounding Stupefy. The last I checked, even the most overpowered Stupefy did not cause someone's head to be blown to pieces."
She continued, "Also, consider Terrence Moriarty from the 1880s. No one even suspected that the Hogwarts Professor was a Dark Lord - until he mysteriously fell to his death from the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland, and within the next hour or so, authorities found documents proclaiming his status and various misdeeds in a room that he had rented out in a lodge nearby. His considerably large web, which ran through both mundane and wizarding Britain, was brought down in a matter of two years - something that the Aurors definitely could not have done so by themselves."
Looking intently at the old man in front of her, Harriet finally laid her cards on the table. "Mr. Holmes, I know that the only remaining branch of your family has been a line of Squibs. Frankly, I do not care about that; I never did understand the Wizarding World's emphasis on blood purity. If anything, I would actually venture that the aforementioned zealotry is the reason that it has been mired in stagnation while the mundanes have shot ahead. No, merit and talent are what really matter. Mr. Holmes, will you help me understand the criminal mind and provide me with the knowledge and training necessary to bring down Lord Voldemort?"
Mr. Holmes carefully surveyed the young ravenette in front of him. "Ms. Potter," he rasped, "I am not sure whether you are aware of my background, but I was a Special Forces officer during WWII. By virtue of my illustrious family name" - he said this with a ghost of a smile - "I coordinated closely with Indian, British, Continental, and American wizards as we pressed on towards Germany. During that time, I saw the best and worst of your world. I saw magic being used to perform great and terrible things - things that would given any sane man nightmares but also saved millions of lives and hastened the end of the war. I also saw Mr. Dumbledore wage his battle against Grindelwald - a fight for the ages, if I might say so. But even then, I also observed the condescension, the narrow-mindedness of your people, regardless of where they came from - they believed that their magic made them superior."
Raising a weathered hand to reassure a bristling Harriet (who, after her suffering at the hands of the Dursleys, was understandably wary when negative opinions were expressed about magic or magic-users), the elderly Mr. Holmes continued, "I do not mean this as an insult, Ms. Potter. I am actually confirming your own observations. The Wizarding World could be GREAT, but it is held back by its own prejudices. After you defeated Lord Voldemort all those years ago," - again, a ghost of a smile appeared on his lips - "even the most ignorant weatherman noticed the fireworks and the sudden abundance of oddly-robed people in public. That was ten years ago, when CCTVs and the Internet were still coming into their own. Now, in the age of YouTube and Twitter, it is only a matter of time before your ignorant brethren slip up, and magic is revealed to the world. What then?"
"More to the point, for an example of how great wizards could truly be without their self-imposed shackles, I only have to look to my own brother, a man who was formerly known as James Bond." Mr. Holmes chuckled at the look of shock on Harriet's face. "Yes, Bond was my brother and was a wizard - the first one in our line in centuries. After he retired, he authorized a Mundane friend, Ian Fleming, to publish redacted stories about his experiences, both to make enough money to live a life of luxury and to somehow draw the Wizarding World's attention to the mundane's rapid technological progress and rising threat level. As a Holmes, we trained him to think for himself first and foremost, so he thought of himself as a mundane with magic. God knows his ego was large enough as it was - the last thing we needed was for him to believe that he was a God among men like most magicals seem to think."
Mr. Holmes sobered quickly though. "At the height of the Cold War, the Soviets tried something that only the Nazis had attempted before them - they merged their magical and mundane secret services, and the Western world was severely disadvantaged. My brother was the only wizarding MI6 operative, and he was invaluable due to his extensive magical knowledge AND mundane know-how. He stayed abreast of the latest technological developments and constantly experimented with spells on the side. We never published any of that for the fear that the information would somehow disseminate to his Soviet opponents. At any rate, he was so successful that the Soviets couldn't replace the dead operatives fast enough, and mundane-magical cooperatives around the world decided that it was easier to pursue their projects separately, so as to avoid invoking Bond's wrath."
He sighed at this point. "Initially, Bond's stunning success prompted MI6 to search for other magical operatives within the British Wizarding World. Their efforts were preempted by Voldemort's first rise, which started with a rash of Muggle-hunting attacks in the 1950s. As it was, you magicals were extremely suspicious of our world, and with Voldemort's rise, the paranoia only increased. On the Dark Side, purebloods feared that we were sending Muggle-borns to infiltrate and take over their society. On the Light Side, wizards did not want to draw additional attention to the "Voldemort" problem and pull mundane weaponry into the war. They reasoned that at least with spells, they knew what they were getting into. Once guns and nukes entered the picture, there would be no stopping, no control."
"So, our two worlds have remained wholly separate since my brother's halcyon days. We couldn't find willing wizards with my brother's open-mindedness, independence of spirit, and versatility. When he died a few years ago, I thought the dream of integrated law-enforcement was dead. Now, looking at you, Ms. Potter, I see someone with the same potential for greatness as my brother. I see hope for a future where our two worlds can coexist. I commend you for your thorough research and for reaching out to me about defeating Voldemort - but I will entreat you, as an old, idealistic man, to adopt a broader perspective. Because Voldemort is only the latest manifestation of a cancer that has been long eating away your culture. When you state that you want the tools to eliminate him, you actually want tools to cleanse the society as a whole."
He added, "Moreover, those megalomaniacs that Bond fought in the '50s and '60s were just the beginning. Technology is the new magic; I'm sure that you have heard of the so-called 'Iron-Man' who has been engaging terrorists in the Middle East. And even if we leave that aside, we are getting all sorts of new, crazy villains - do look into a Jim Moriarty when you get the time, will you dear? Eventually, these men will find out about the magical world, and the world will burn as good men on both sides will only have half of the picture."
Harriet stared at Mr. Holmes with a gaping mouth. She had not expected to be saddled with the task of integrating the mundane and magical worlds when she had contacted the old man. She had hoped that he could point her to tomes that could help her expand her magical knowledge to hitherto unknown areas, giving her an advantage over Voldemort. At minimum, she had hoped that he would reach out to contacts and get her magical and physical-combat training. But this was so much more.
But before she opened her mouth to laugh at his idea and completely dismiss it ('I can't do this, I'm just a eleven-year-old girl. And what about my own life?'), she stopped and considered. 'He's got a point, you know,' her logical side spoke in her head. 'It's only a matter of time before the mundanes find out about us. Worst-case scenario, mundane terrorists will wreak havoc throughout the world by allying with magical counterparts. I mean, just look at Afghanistan and the Middle East - society is falling apart there. How much longer till magical jihadists join their mundane fellows?'
'And I can't beat Voldemort through pure physical combat or pure magic alone - he outclasses me in terms of the latter and would butcher me before I could get close enough to use the former. I need to beat him on my own terms - terms that he won't even be able to comprehend, much less predict.'
'Above all, I've always been curious and eager for new knowledge. But what's the point of hoarding that knowledge, especially after Voldemort is gone? My parents died for me for a reason. This...this is a reason that I think they would approve of.'
But a part of Harriet rebelled. 'How is this any different from Dumbledore?' it argued. 'At least with Dumbledore, you are only focusing on beating Voldemort. With this guy, you're becoming some sort of Super-Harriet, flying around saving the ENTIRE world.'
Her logical side responded, 'Because unlike Dumbledore, this man is laying all of his cards on the table. And he is offering me invaluable tools and skills to accomplish his (and eventually, my) goals. We're all manipulated at the end of the day as soon as we begin interacting with people. But this path offers me the greatest chance of making my own path and mark on the world.'
Whether Harriet admitted it or not, the prospect of independence and making her own mark cinched the deal. Besides Ravenclaw, the Hat had strongly urged her to consider Slytherin after all. 'Why on Earth it put me into Gryffindor, I still don't understand...unless, of course, I am right about the old goat being a consummate chess-master.'
"Very well, Mr. Holmes. I will keep your ideas in mind," Harriet responded cautiously. "With regards to my original question - can you help me? We can plan for the future and all, but I will need training first..."
Mr. Holmes stared through Harriet for a moment - "So young to be fighting so many." He shook his head to dispel stray thoughts. "Well then, Harriet. I will put you in touch with my sons, Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes. They aren't magic users, but frankly, they will be able to teach you something far more valuable."
"And what is that?" Harriet asked curiously.
Mr. Holmes smiled. "That which separates us from the animals and my wife and sons from the rest of the rabble, including me - deduction and reasoning."