Almosts Lost to Time
After the Battle of Hogwarts on May 2, 1998, the Wizarding World was on the brink of a supernova. It was chaos, the first few days after Voldemort's death; many Death Eater's had escaped before they could be captured, the giants that survived had to be relocated and put under 24 hours surveillance, the Dementors that were loose across the country had to be rounded up and sent back to Azkaban, and the persecution of the werewolves that had sided with Voldemort. The senior Order members only had that night to rest and compose themselves before they started the larger battle of overhauling the Ministry.
They knew it would be difficult and, unsurprisingly, encountered multiple problems and setbacks. The Wizengamot was the first to be overhauled, 1) because a fraction of the members had been killed/died during the war and 2) Voldemort had placed his supporters in positions of power. Kingsley cleaned house as soon as he became acting Minister. Many of the departments had to be temporary suspended so the manpower could go into rebuilding the foundation of the Ministry. Many worried about the power Kingsley was taking; some even went as far as likening him to a new Voldemort, the way he was changing everything without votes, but the Order and the DA threw their support behind him to reform the government. The Daily Prophet was suspended, pending criminal investigations by the Aurors for their part in the promotion of capturing muggleborns. All known Death Eaters were given trials to plead their case but, ultimately, they were all found guilty and sent to Azkaban, which was in the process of becoming Dementor free.
Kingsley relied on his comrades for support, Rynan being the most popular and outspoken of the group. Though she didn't like it, she knew if she threw her support behind Kingsley, the rest of Britain would follow without question. This dissuaded a large section of the opposition. Who would argue against the Woman Who Conquered?
The first week was a complete tornado. The remaining Order members met to outline the major reconstruction zones that Wizarding Britain needed to be able to function as smoothly as possible:
1. Reform the Wizengamot with elected officials
2. Sentence and raid known Death Eater homes
3. Get DMLE up and running again
4. Send aid to Hogwarts for rebuilding
5. Track down all muggle-born and halfbloods that were on the run and get them settled
6. Rebuild Diagon Alley
7. Goblin Relation (This was something everyone was looking forward to, especially since they were known supporters of Rynan and she not only broke in to Gringotts but escaped as well)
8. Reestablish contact with the Muggle Prime Minister
Agendas 4, 6, and 8 needed to be accomplished before September 1 to ensure their children's schooling wasn't further compromised. All those who missed the previous year were given the option to take summer courses at Beaubaxton free of charge, or they could return to Hogwarts to make up that year. Madam Maxime was actually the one to offer her school for the summer. Many of the muggleborns took up the offer, needing to get out of England indefinitely. They had been scarred beyond imagine and Rynan was sure many would never come back, she wasn't even sure if she would stay herself. Right now she had a purpose, but once that purpose was fulfilled, could she stay?
Kingsley reestablished contact with the Prime Minister and with Rynan at his side, he was able to explain the war and the resolution and reform that has been taking place since the beginning of May. He highlighted all they were doing to get their world up and running again. The PM was actually the one to bring the Queen's attention to Rynan and all that she had sacrificed; the Queen, knowing about the Magical World, summoned Rynan to take part in a special Knighting Ceremony.
Rynan refused; it wasn't something she wanted, it wasn't something she needed. She had too many titles and attention already. She just wanted to get her world and life back in order. The last year had been hard on the trio. Hermione's torture at the hands of Bellatrix still haunted all of them as did Ron's betrayal. While he had come back and they made up, there as still an opening, festering wound. And Rynan...she still had to deal with her death and her easy acceptance of it.
The Burrow was filled to the brim with Weasley's, a Granger, and a Potter; Molly, and everyone else, were too afraid to have anyone out of sight for more than an hour. Fred's death had shaken the family. Molly clung to her children a little tighter and Arthur's gaze would linger on everyone a little longer. Everyone was looking after George, he wasn't the same anymore, Rynan didn't think he would ever be the same. Fred had been the other half of his soul. She did what she could, that often included sharing a bed to chase away the nightmares. He didn't realize it at first because she would be gone by morning but when he did, he mentioned it to no one. She didn't sleep anymore, something the Weasley's weren't aware of yet, so she wandered the house endlessly at night. When she did sleep, her dreams were filled with screams of death and pain and terror. She couldn't get Hogwarts out of her head. All those deaths, those kids; those were on her. She had led Voldemort right to Hogwarts, she had led him to a school full of children. That was something she knew she would never get over.
It was for this reason that she could never go to Hogwarts again, she didn't deserve to step foot on those grounds, not after the hell she had brought there.
It took all summer for Hermione to convince Ron to go back with her for their 7th year. Rynan thought it was a good idea for them, it would help them get closer and work out the things that had been left unsaid. Personally, Rynan thought the two needed a break before entering into the mess that was the ministry. She knew Hermione better than anyone and the second she graduates, she'll be head first into the foray. It was best they, especially Ron, had a buffer to clear their heads before this happened. Ron didn't have to go back to complete his NEWTS, Kingsley having waived the Auror requirements for those in the DA. The only reason he was going back was for Hermione and his mom. They had double teamed him and got him to agree to, at the very least, try going back. The two had tried to pull the same trick on her but Rynan escaped to Andromeda's for the latter part of August until mid-September. She wasn't proud of it, but it was the only way to keep the two away. Teddy kept her mind in the present, something she was thankful for.
September 1st rolled around and Hogwarts was repaired and operating. After talking with McGonagall, Hermione agreed to set up mandatory study periods run by the Eighth Years. The groups were set up to help alleviate the burdens the returning professors would face the coming school year. Not only were they missing the Defense Against the Dark Arts and Muggle Studies professors, McGonagall was operating as the Headmistress, Tranfiguration professor, and the Head of Gryffindor. Hermione, the most qualified outside of Rynan, agreed to run the DADA class like they had the DA meetings in their 5th year. Neville, Ron, and Ginny all agreed to help in running it. There wasn't much they could learn from the class anyway.
It was hard to start the school year missing all the faces that should've been there but were killed. McGonagall read the names of all the students including their their age, as tribute with a moment of silence at the end of the sorting. Their House wasn't mentioned because it didn't matter, they were all students of Hogwarts: there were casualties from all four houses. A great majority of them had been 17 or older but a few, like Colin, were younger and had snuck into the battle. There were over 40 names of those who died that had been students. Sixteen of them had been underage, one had been a first year Gryffindor who had gotten separated in the evacuation to Hogshead.
It was the first time anyone had seen the stern McGonagall cry. Her thick Scottish accent growing thicker with emotion with every name that passed her lips. Many of the casualties had been from her house, kids she had nurtured from small 11 year olds into brave adults. Flitwick had to continue when the Gryffindor Head finally hit Fred Weasley's name as she physically couldn't vocalize words anymore. After they got through the students, there was a moment for everyone to give the names of those who had fallen. It was a somber affair but it was also the first step towards healing. The castle was quiet that night, in remembrance but also in budding anticipation. It was Hogwarts and Hogwarts would always inspire the next generation.
With Hermione and Ron gone, Rynan retreated from many of her public affairs. Without her friends there to hound her every move, it was easy to accomplish. From September to November, she split her time between Teddy and Godric's Hollow. She hadn't noticed it the first time, but she found an inscription that must've been from Sirius when he first escaped. It didn't make her cry, her tears were all used up, but it made her remember how much he had loved her and she him. As she walked through her childhood home, she could almost imagine her life had her parents survived. Her mother scolding Sirius and her dad for another prank, Remus bringing home chocolate with every visit. She could even imagine a sibling running around the house with her. It was a good dream but an impossible dream, something she chose not to dwell on.
She walked through the home multiple times, taking off the enchantments outside and replacing them with repelling charms. Boxes lined the walls as she collected everything that remained. It amazed her how much she still didn't, and would never, know about the people who gave their lives for her. She found the rest of the letters between her parents and Sirius that highlighted the mundane life they were forced to live. She felt horrible when she finally learned Sirius's birthday. All these years, she had never thought to ask. He had lost everything two days before his 22nd birthday. Azkaban gained a deeper level of hatred from her; the torture her godfather must've gone through those first few days. He never did tell her if he went into the house that night, but Rynan had a feeling there was a lot he didn't tell her about that night. From her venture into Voldemort's mind as he was remembering their deaths, she knew exactly where and how her father had died, standing without a wand to give his family some semblance of time. She knew exactly where her mother had begged for her only daughter's life and was mercilessly cut down.
It wasn't often but it crossed her mind a handful of times: she should've died in that clearing. It would've been better than the life she was living now.
Molly was hysterical; between George and Rynan, she didn't know what to do. They were shells of their former selves and she just wanted to see them smile and laugh again. They had been the most spirited of teenagers. Arthur told her to give them time, that wounds like that didn't just heal overnight.
Kingsley knew and saw the effect the war was having on Rynan, which was why he called on her as often as he could. He didn't want her dwelling on those thoughts and hopefully doing something productive would provide a focus for her troubled mind, let her see a bright future for herself. That was how she found herself working with veterans and Aurors in the Wizarding World. Kingsley had set up a department to help those effected physically and psychologically in the last two wars. Through them, she heard the same narrative replayed over and over; she didn't want to be part of that narrative.
It was the shove she needed. She sat for her A-levels in December and worked with the new Aurors, teaching them all she had learned in her perils. She refused the offer every time Kingsley called her in. That life was behind her for now. She had a godson to think about. She wasn't going to let Teddy down. If she had to force herself to be happy and there for a few hours a day, than that was what she would do. Her godson came before anything, including her happiness and guilt. She would make sure he never wanted for anything and knew he was loved, always. Between her and Andromeda, Edward Remus Lupin would be the most protected child in the world and he would never want for anything, especially love.
The highlight of those depressing months had been her first visit to Gringotts since breaking in. Those little bastards couldn't do anything to her and they knew it. They (Griphook) had broken their word to her and that means everything to the young Potter. In in her eyes, they had chosen their side. The state of that dragon also didn't help matters. She often wondered about him and asked Charlie to be on the lookout as he was badly injured and needed care. The dragonoloist promised to have some people go out and look for him.
Christmas that year was a relief for everyone. It was the one thing that remained relatively normal. Andromeda was invited to the Burrow, where she brought Teddy for his first Christmas. Everyone was under the same roof for the first time in four months. It was a joyous affair that saw laughter, pranks, cheer, and overwhelming warmth radiating through every witch and wizard.
By March she was just beginning to make a name for herself outside of the witch who killed Voldemort. She was capturing Death Eaters left and right, whipping the trainees into shape, and advocating new laws for mental health for those affected by the wars. She felt confident in herself that she finally made the decision to visit Hogwarts for the first time since May 2.
The grounds were like new. It would be hard to prove a battle ever took place here. But for her, who knew these grounds like the back of her hand, she saw the damage where others couldn't. The familiar path to the Entrance Hall crossed her mind -not yet- she told herself. She had to see what else had changed. Hagrid's hut was fixed but she could still make out the burn marks on the stone work. The Whomping Willow had a dent near its middle, evidence of a powerful curse making contact. The Quidditch Pitch was amazingly completely rebuilt. She longed to ride her Firebolt through the air, the cheers of the students echoing around her.
Rynan finally decided she couldn't put if off any more. Dinner was due to end soon. She walked the path to the Entrance Hall, gathering her courage as she took step after step, nerves hitting her like a hippogriff.
Silence permeated the Great Hall as the doors opened to reveal Rynan Potter.
No one moved.
No on spoke.
Until the most unlikely person made the first move.
McGonagall was the first to move from the Head Table, bringing the girl into a tight embrace. She hadn't seen the last Potter since the end of the war. She worried about her and no amount of reassurance from her friends could quell that. She saw the looks in Weasley and Granger's eyes. They were worried about their friend more than she was.
To see her, standing awkwardly outside the Great Hall brought everything crashing down. She was a far cry from the small bespectacled girl who nervously climbed up the stairs to be sorted. She was a far cry from the brave teenager who took on the Ministry and school at 15. But McGonagall would always see these people in her, no matter how much she changed. She, like her father, held a special place in her heart.
Rynan melted into the hug as the hall around them burst into applause. They knew what happened, what she had sacrificed. She, like all of them, was finally home -even if it felt different.
"It's good tae see ye Potter. Managing tae stay outta trouble Ah see." Her Scottish accent was thick with emotion. "Schooling is gettin done without all yer adventures and mischief."
Rynan's eyes shown with hurt as she tried to smile but it came out more as a grimace. "I'm trying." It came out more like a plea than a statement.
Neville was the first student to move. He closed the distance between them with little effort as he pulled her into his arms. She was able to sink into his embrace. He felt safe, familiar. Her year mates who had returned began to crowd around her as the rest of the school looked on. This was the generation, the year, which had lost so much. They had lost over half their members in the battle, they had spent the previous year viciously defending the younger students, they had scars that would never heal. This, this was what they needed.
"God, I never thought I'd be happy to see your face Ernie." This drew laughs from everyone who knew the history between the two.
"I'll remember that Potter."
"Rynan?" A small voice asked, unsure of itself, a far cry from what Rynan was used to hearing from the owner.
The group parted so Rynan could see the speaker. It was Dennis Creevey, nothing like the boy Rynan remember from her Sixth Year. Just looking at him brought up the memories of Wood carrying Colin's body to the Great Hall. Her tears were all spent but she could feel her eyes becoming glassy as she looked at the now 15 year old who had lost his whole life.
"I'm so sorry I didn't stay Dennis. I didn't want to cause your family anymore pain." She was talking about the last time she had seen him, at Colin's funeral. She left immediately after the service.
"We understood. Dad just wanted to thank you for everything you did for him. I know we weren't the easiest to be around in the beginning but you were Colin's hero. I just wanted you to know that no one blames you."
For some reason, it was that, that little sentence that Rynan needed to hear: No one blamed her for what happened.
She had shouldered the guilt all these months. She had been the one to come back to Hogwarts, she had led Voldemort to them, she didn't give herself up to stop the fighting. To hear those four words, she cried for the first time in months, if not a year. Everything came out and the harder she tried to stop, the harder she cried. Hermione and Ron were quick to conceal her in their embrace, guilt eating at them for not noticing her suffering over that.
"It's okay Rynan, your nargle infestation isn't as bad as the last time I saw you." Luna's dreamy voice made its way through the crowd. "I suspect you've discovered a repellent. You'll have to tell me when you have the chance."
This brought chuckles from everyone as Luna had been going around all year telling everyone this.
Rynan pulled herself away from her friends, ashamed that she had lost control of her emotions like that. She knew it would be difficult to return, she just wasn't expecting it to be this hard. With her back straight and she shoulders square she walked to the front of the hall where Dumbledore had always made his speeches.
She looked around, taking in all the new faces, all the old faces, and all the faces that were missing. "I've never been good at speaking like this, some of you know this from our first DA meeting, but I want to tell you that we have made a difference. Everyone we lost, their dreams are starting to come true. I've been working with the Ministry over the past few months and we've started from scratch. The system is still new and fragile but we are working the best we can so you guys don't have to worry about this ever again. It may be too late for my year mates and me but it's not too late for you to still have a childhood." She looked from table to table, making sure it was clear she was talking to everyone. "If I have one wish for you, it's this: love each other, make new friends, play with the giant squid, stay up late talking about the latest Weird Sister's gossip, go crazy about the Quidditch Cup, sneak up to the Astronomy Tower for some quiet, and create a little mischief. I want you to be kids."
Applause broke out around the hall as students and teachers alike climbed to their feet to show her their support. She waited for it to die down so she could speak again.
"Regardless of your house or your blood status, you are students of Hogwarts first. Ravenclaw's can be loyal, Hufflepuff's can be cunning, Gryffindor's can be smart, and Slytherin's can be brave. Your house only defines you as much as you let it. The Sorting Hat once warned that the houses would need to unite or risk falling apart. We ignored his warning the first time so I ask you not to make our mistake. I'll leave you with something my godfather once told me: We've all got light and darkness inside us. What matters is the part we chose to act on."
She stepped down as the applause echoed across the hall, this time from everyone and every house. She looked towards the Slytherin table and received nods from the only two 'Eighth' Years who had returned: Daphne Greengrass and Blaise Zabini. It was a step in the right direction.
"Professor, I was wondering if I might be able to use your office for a bit." Rynan left out her purpose but McGonagall could guess why she needed it.
Rynan had one more thing she needed to do for closure.
"I know what you did and even though I don't agree with it, I'm here to say I forgive you."
"After all these years, you still manage to surprise me with your ability to forgive and love. It is still your greatest strength." Dumbledore beamed from his portrait. Rynan scowled at the man, she hated that he had kept the truth from her but she did understand why he did what he did. He was only human after all.
She turned her attention to the next portrait, who was doing nothing more than scowling at her in contempt.
"Are you to confess your forgiveness to me as well, Potter? Has my death lingered in your conscious, another person the Chosen One couldn't save? Or have you come to gloat at your victory?" His dark eyes studied her, so different to the look he gave her at his death. A look full of fear, regret, and acceptance, something she still had trouble processing.
Her eyes narrowed at him, hate shining through. "You were –still are– a pathetic, shallow man who couldn't get over the past." She hissed out, venom lacing every word. "My mom didn't choose you and you spent the rest of your life taking it out on everyone else. You blamed everyone for your suffering but yourself. You were cruel and bitter and spiteful and everyone hated you. But you took hate and resentment over admiration and acknowledgement. You were one of the bravest men I've ever known." Gathering her breath, this next part almost physically hurt her to admit. "I forgive you but I will never forget."
The surrounding portraits chuckled awkwardly at the last part, having witnessed the relationship develop over the year as they complained of the other to the headmaster.
Snape's portrait developed his common sneer, disgust lacing his words. "A bumbling first year would likely make a better speech than you Potter. And if you are quite done throwing insults, I shall enlighten you." Even his portrait was able to slowly drawl his sentences, giving the impression that she was a dudderhead he always claimed her to be. "None of what I did was ever for you; I made a vow to protect Lily, you were nothing more than an arrogant rag that shared her blood. More like your swine father than you ever were her."
Albus made to interrupt, having hoped the two could move past their differences by now. "Now Severus-"
"Charming, you greasy haired git. If I could be half the person my dad was, than I would still be a better person than you. He faced death for mom, the woman he loved. He willingly gave up his life to give us a chance. Something that never even crossed your mind. You begged and sniveled for her life only." She didn't see the resigned look on Dumbledore's face, she was only focused on Snape. "I've said what was needed and I've settled my debt to you. I'm moving on, something you never did." She didn't wait for his acknowledgement as she strode away, the door closing forcefully behind her. That would be the last time she ever set foot in that office, if she had any say in it.
She felt lighter. Between the liberation of her guilt earlier and settling her debts with the two former headmasters, she was ready to start a new leaflet.
When she left Hogwarts, it was a bittersweet feeling. She didn't know if she would ever come back here but for once, it didn't bother her. She had her whole future to look forward to.
Rynan never knew when to hold her tongue. It was one of the reason she had so many detentions in school (In her defense, Snape also held the record for giving out those detentions). That was how she acquired the tremendous influence she had so swiftly. People didn't like politicians who used slippery words and padded their own pocket with false promises.
At the age of 21, she was the youngest member of the House of Commons, her official title being Member of Parliament Dame Rynan Lily Potter. The Queen had knighted her after the war with Voldemort for 'unmatched service to her country'. She was using her own money to set up programs for veterans and orphans, creating awareness of the hardship and obstacles they face adjusting to society. This endeared her to the people and proved to be the foundation of her support. She knew, with her upbringing, she was more than qualified to implement such programs but she never let her past become public. She never went looking for the Dursely's again, though she did check up on Dudley to make sure he had really turned over a new leaf, and they never came looking for her.
She moved into her London flat when she was 21 and took full custody of Teddy. Andromeda just couldn't take care of him 24/7. Teddy was three and growing leaps and bounds. She took him anywhere and everywhere possible because she never wanted him to feel like he was abandoned, like he was second priority. Her time was split between the two worlds. She was using her influence and knowledge she gained to try and better both societies. It passed her mind a few times that the Dursley's must be going mental knowing she was both powerfully and influential and that the country could see her as she was and not how they painted her to be.
Thanks to her ancestors, she didn't have to work. The money from her grandfather was still coming in but she refused to touch it. She didn't want to live off the success of others. She wanted to make her own way with everything, including money.
The people loved Rynan, her blunt personality, her obvious wealth, her tenderness with children, and her generous, down-to-earth nature. While she did have a massive wealth, she donated and invested it into the country. She set up schools and programs, counseling for abused children, programs for war veterans, and she was raising her godson all by herself! She was the people's politician. She was likened to Princess Diana which Rynan thought was going a little too far. She had the means to make a difference; if more people had the same opportunities as her, she imagined they would do the same.
In Parliament, she spoke up against the undue hardships people faced because of certain law, she advocated a more involved United Kingdom in European affairs. She had seen the effects caused by the Ministry of Magic isolating itself from the rest of Europe. She didn't gain many supporters in the House of Commons or Lords, especially the from the old guard set in their ways. She did have her fair share of supporters though, enough of to have a substantial influence. She knew there were whispers of giving her a foreign affairs position or even a place in the UN but she didn't want that. She just wanted to make a better world for her godson. After graduation, Ron and Hermione had took over things in the Ministry of Magic so she could deal with the Muggle world. She had become close with the Minister as he knew exactly who she was; despite the mutual respect, they were often clashing heads on certain issues, especially those that involved the Ministry of Magic.
After a few years, she found herself in the Ministry of Defense with her support behind expanding the Veterans Agency. It was in part, due to her efforts, that in 2007, the group merged with AFPAA to create a single point of contact for veterans. Her efforts led to the creation of the Defense Business Services with a pillar, Veterans UK, in 2011.
Hermione loved what Rynan was doing, knowing she was making a big difference. Ron and her were doing their best on the other side, her in the Wizengamot and Ron in Law Enforcement. Things were different. The students who made up the DA had joined the Ministry after the war and together they were making sure all their friend's and loved one's deaths were not in vain. Creature laws were abolished and Hermione got programs in place for people like Remus. The only trouble they had were with the Goblins but that was due in part to the grudge they still held about the break in. Ron was one of the top Aurors, supervising the trainees and heading missions to capture those who ran at the end of the war.
Hermione did worry that they were changing things too fast and people would retaliate. There were still those who supported the old system with old money and power. They still remembered those tentative months were Minister Shacklebolt had complete control, pushing through legislative and decrees with no prior approval. It slowed down once the Ministry had been cleared but people still held resentment over the display of power between the Minister and Rynan.
It was in 2002, four years after the Final Battle that secrets finally came to light. It came, in part, because Rynan was reminded on her 22nd birthday that she was now older than her parents had ever been. They hadn't gotten to live life together, as a proper family. She had believed for years that she would never live to 21; she would die young just like her parents. It was surreal to be celebrating her 22nd birthday with her history. No one really understood, could understand, what she was going through. They had their parents, death hadn't followed them like it had her.
Hermione was nagging Rynan to talk about her experience to someone if she wouldn't tell them. She was getting a max of 3 hours of sleep each night. Hermione had known Rynan for 11 years, she couldn't keep anything from the bushy haired genius.
It finally became too much and she just blurted it out.
"I died Hermione! The spells didn't backfire, I didn't even raise my wand, okay. I closed my eyes and let it happen."
Hermione gasped, horrified at this admission. She and Ron had always thought their friend had played dead due to the backfiring of spells, like what had happened every time the two enemies had faced that year. They had been devastated when they saw her dead body, she hadn't said goodbye.
"But-that's not possible. You can't bring someone back from the dead." She was trying to rationalize, something she did when flustered.
Rynan turned away, it was hard to relive this moment. She had been so unnaturally calm when she talked with Dumbledore at Kings Cross. Voldemort's soul haunted her nightmares. She had lived 17 years with that in her body. She felt disgusted with herself when, after the battle, she felt hallow, like she was missing a piece of herself.
"I had two souls in my body. I had the chance to go, move on; Voldemort didn't have that option. His soul fragment is stuck in limbo –Merlin, Hermione! It was the most hideous creature I have ever seen…and I felt pity for it! I felt pity for the soul that killed my parents!"
Hermione pulled her friend into her embrace. "I remember Dumbledore saying once that your greatest strength isn't the number of spells you can master but the ability to connect to those around you. You are the strongest person I know because you are able to see the good in others when no one else ever could. You've seen the worst of humanity and yet you are doing all of this!" She indicated to the paperwork surrounding them.
"I learned that from you, you know?" Rynan chuckled at Hermione's confused look. Of course she wouldn't remember. "At the sorting, I knew you heard Ron's comment and again that Halloween. I never said anything to stand up for you but you trusted me to save you from the troll. I didn't deserve that. There were multiple times throughout the years where you should've left me, us, but you always stayed. I wanted to be like you. You gave me a second chance and I couldn't let someone fall through because I didn't give them a chance like you gave me."
Hermione sat there in stunned silence. She had never realized she had had that big of an impact of the last Potter. If anything, she believed it to be the other way around. Rynan made her brave, made her believe in her abilities.
"I just sit and think, what if he had been given a second chance? What if someone had taken a chance with him before it was too late? What if you and Ron hadn't taken a chance with me? Could I have ended up like him?"
A glaze sheered over her eyes as her thoughts turned to her nightmares. The creature at Kings Cross wasn't Voldemort anymore, it was a grotesque version of her. It was her, following the same path as Voldemort. She still had that hidden fear from her second year when Diary Tom pointed out their similarities. It stayed tucked away in the back of her mind. Consciously, she knew she was nothing like him but subconsciously, her mind created vivid illustrations highlighting the similarities.
Rynan was bound to ruffle a few feathers with her storming of the old guard but she was prepared. What could these people throw at her that could possibility be worse than Voldemort? She clearly didn't know about HYDRA.
It wasn't so much forbidden as it was impossible, for the Asset to question orders; he was nothing but a tool, a weapon, to be wielded as his handlers deemed. He had been conditioned throughout the decades to complete the mission; he needed no other information other than the target and how it needed to look. He was never given a chance to step out of line. Once his mission was completed, he was prepped and put back on ice. When a new mission came up, he would be taken off ice and prepped again. It was always the same.
So when he received his orders to assassinate Rynan Potter and make it look like a foreign attack, he didn't flinch at the young face that stared at him from the folder: he had killed far younger targets. He was given 48 hours to complete the mission.
He was provided with her daily schedule and home address. She didn't keep to a fixed schedule so he needed to trail her to find an opening. She was too exposed to take her out in the daylight; too many cameras could catch him. While he didn't doubt his ability to remain concealed from the CCTV cameras, his handlers had wanted the authorities to believe it was a foreign agency that had carried out the attack. There were few countries that would carry out an assassination in broad daylight nowadays. That left her home. He canvased her home, finding the back to have the best vantage to complete his mission; he set himself up on the roof of the neighboring house almost a 400 yards away. The back of the home was almost all windows, giving him a clear target. The kitchen and family room were clearly displayed in his scope as he watched her pull into the driveway.
She was drifting in and out of the kitchen, not giving him ample time to lock on for a kill shot. A little boy also made his way around the sitting room. He hadn't been in the file.
The Asset had been set up for almost four hours when he was finally given his window. The target had just put the child down and was making her way to the kitchen. His handlers had said to make it look like a foreign attack, he would need to do some work after he took her out. With the kid asleep, it would cause less problems when he killed him.
His sniper was ready and aimed as she finally stood still, waiting for her water to boil.
Rynan felt something was wrong. After fighting in a war and having a Dark Lord like Voldemort after her for 17 years, she had developed a sense of when her life was in danger. She activated her wards and prepared for a fight wondering if a rouge Death Eater was trying to take revenge.
The shot shattered the entire glass wall but disintegrated upon impacting her wards.
She waited for the next shot or someone to come out but nothing happened. She was getting paranoid, her hand reaching for her cellphone. She had Hermione on speed dial should the situation escalate.
The Winter Soldier wasn't fazed by what happened, he just had to readjust his strategy. Did he risk firing another shot or did he go with the element of surprise? He saw her hand reaching for the phone and his second shot smashed it to pieces perfectly. He was off the roof once his shot was taken, sprinting as fast as he could, not making a sound. Rynan was looking at the shattered phone, wondering what the hell was happening when the wards smashed to pieces. She barely had time to dodge the knife that came at her head before shots were fired. She had yet to even get a look at her attacker!
One grazed her right thigh as she dropped to the floor. She had enough time to look up and see her attacker before his hand was around her throat, squeezing the life out of her. She felt the pressure building up behind her eyes, her feet kicking out in a desperate attempt to get him off her. It was her magic that finally flared, sending him across the room.
Rynan rolled to her side, gasping for air her lungs desperately demanded: she flashed back to First Year and Quirrell. She didn't have much time as her attacker was quick to recover and was drawing his SIG. It was desperation that made Rynan flail her hand, bringing up a weak protego that was able to stop the bullets. Her magic didn't deter him as he swaggered over to her as she pushed herself to move. His metal arm glistened in the light of her sitting room; it was that arm that almost chocked the life out of her. She could see that it was a metal prosthesis, well beyond anything she had ever encountered.
She was fairly positive now that this wasn't a Death Eater attack. She didn't know what kind of attack this was!
He was feet from her when she blasted a stunner at his chest. It was too quick for him to dodge so he moved the left arm to block it. It must be a reflex, she thought, but it didn't matter. If the arm was connected to him, the spell would work. Rynan let out a sigh of relief when he went down.
She took away his gun and other weapons but she couldn't get his eyes out of her head. She had never seen eyes so dark, so empty before. Nothing surprised him, nothing hurt him, it was like he was on autopilot and someone else was controlling his body.
It was with a heavy sigh, Rynan broke one of her rules: Never use legilimency on someone without their permission.
This was an exception, she reasoned. She knew these kinds of soldiers, soldiers who would never break. Thankfully, she had more control than what Snape showed on her. What she saw, it didn't sit well with her.
"Who are you?" She asked, though she knew she wouldn't get an answer from the stunned man. She grabbed her hair in frustration as she began to pace around the room. There was literally nothing she could read from him. His surface thoughts were composed of nothing but his mission: killing her. There should be more to it, there should be emotions, thoughts, memories! Something!
She had never encountered something like this before and it immediately took her back to the war.
Rynan made up her mind: she had to call Hermione. Thankfully the landline was working, she thought, as she waited for her friend to pick up.
"Ry." A small voice called out. Rynan froze where she stood with the phone. He was supposed to be sleeping, he couldn't be down here! "I heard loud noises."
Teddy walked around the corner from the staircase, sleepy eyes and blanket clutched tightly to his chest. Rynan abandoned the phone as she rushed to her godson's side. While the stunner should work for at least half an hour, it wasn't a chance she was willing to take, not when it was Teddy's life.
Right as she reached him, it was like the world stopped.
The effects of the stunner wore off in a third of the normal time, his enhancements saw to that. The Asset's metal arm broke through the bindings painfully easily and his SIG was quickly reacquired and aimed at his target. He wasn't taking any chances, his finger was on the trigger and he was firing as soon as he was on his feet.
The child, who saw the movement before his guardian, pushed her away. His actions prevented the shot from going through her heart, hitting her shoulder instead.
The kid's actions caused a quick flashback in the soldier's mind to a similar kid with blond hair and bruises on his face.
His second hesitation allowed Rynan to dodge the next shot and, recovering from the shock of being shot, Rynan blasted her strongest Confundus at the assailant before she forced Teddy back up the stairs. Using the blood from her shoulder wound, Rynan quickly activated the wards that would hide the second floor: no one could get in or out.
It was like someone had pressed the rewind button in his mind. The Winter Soldier began to see fragments of previous missions, missions he had no recollection of. But there was always one constant, pain. Always excruciating pain. It was blinding him, pushing his nerves to the extreme as he held back his screams. Pain didn't matter, pain was momentary, the mission was his priority. The mission came before everything. He was the Fist of HYDRA, he was created to only follow orders.
Before she could make a move, she was blindsided by his sudden attack. He recovered faster than she thought he would. The metal arm she had been admiring minutes earlier was now squeezing the life out of her. Her back slamming against the wall took what little breath remained. They were once again back where they started, except this time, Rynan could sense the turmoil in her opponent; she could feel his mind reaching, screaming out for more information.
Her face was a violent shade of red, her eyes bulging as her carotid artery was compressed beyond safety levels. She could feel the pressure building up as she felt her airway being crushed. If she didn't move his hand in the next few seconds, she would pass out and then she was as good as dead.
Rynan's arms flared at her sides trying to find her wand as she was lifted higher and higher off the ground. She just had to put her wand in her boot!
She felt his grip tighten. Searching his eyes desperately, she tried to find any type of emotion she could appeal to. There was none, his face was blank.
"Ja-mes" She managed to crock out. "Your name." It could barely be heard but with how close he was, he made out the words. There was a flicker in his eyes, she saw it as darkness began to creep into her vision.
Taking her last chance, Rynan concentrated her magic into his metal arm. If it ran on circuits, she could use her magic to fry the circuit boards.
It worked as his arm seized and his grip loosened as he struggled to regain control of it.
She dropped to the ground, gasping for breath, her lungs demanding more oxygen than she could take in.
A snarl reminded her of the danger she was currently in. It seemed his other arm was just as operational as his now useless metal one. She barely dodged the knife that had appeared in his hand. If anything, he seemed more dangerous now. She had no advantage on him; for being so large, he moved fluidly and quickly. Where her height and agility would've given her an advantage, they were canceled out as this man was clearly better trained and hadn't been taking care of a child for six years.
There was barely a few feet between the two of them when Rynan gave in to her desperation and shouted (croaked), "Leglimency!"
Normally she was against someone doing this but it was a special circumstance. She tore through his mind, looking for those memories she saw before. If she could retrieve those from his chaotic mind, she knew she had a better chance of surviving.
Memory after memory passed before her, she saw him in uniform, saw him strapped to a table, and she saw him dancing. In the final memory, she saw him find Steve barely breathing. She could feel his panic before she was thrust out of his mind.
"Steve." It was a broken whisper, like he recognized the man but was unaware of how.
His arm blindsided her, the force of it knocking her out. By the time she came to, James was gone and Hermione and Ron were crowded around her. She guessed it counted in her favor that she was still alive. She must've triggered his memories. She only hoped it helped him and not made him crazy.
"Rynan! Oh, you had us so worried." Hermione cried when she finally focused on where she was. She had forgotten she left Hermione waiting on the phone when she went to get Teddy.
Ron was searching the house, looking for any sign of the assailant.
Pain radiated throughout her entire body when she tried to sit up. She had forgotten about the bullet in her shoulder and the wound on her thigh, not to mention she could barely move her neck. Hermione was already putting balm on it to help reduce the swelling. "What happened? I picked up and all I heard was a gunshot?"
Hermione was focused on stopping the bleeding from her shoulder as she grilled Rynan.
"She can't talk, Hermione." Ron interjected before his wife could ask any more questions. His sweep had brought up nothing. Whoever had attacked Rynan was long gone. "She'll need to go to St. Mungos. The swelling is beyond what you can treat and that wound needs looked at."
Rynan tried to move her head but the pain was too much, tears sprung to her eyes. There was no way she could apparate to St. Mungos without further injuring herself. Hermione was of similar thought. "We can't take her to St. Mungos."
Hermione pulled out her cell phone to dial 999 to call for an ambulance.
While Hermione called for an ambulance, Ron went to the wall to take down the ward. The three of them had come up with the design in case of an emergency so only the three of them knew how to take it down. As the staircase reappeared, Teddy came barreling out, tears staining his cheeks and he cried for Rynan. He grabbed him before he could unintentionally harm his godmother. The kid put up a fight until he realized who had him and then he collapsed into Ron's arms.
Ron wasn't a stranger to crying kids but he was still awkward comforting them. Hermione came over to see if Teddy was hurt, giving him comforting words as he clung to her husband.
"The ambulance should be here in 10 minutes." Ron took that as his cue to go to Rynan. He could tell she had to be in some real pain if tears were falling. He really wished they had covered more extensive healing in Auror training instead of having one Healer on the team. Looking at her throat, he could already see bruises forming. From the marks he could tell the person used one hand and that in itself told him the assailant was strong.
Sirens broke the tense silence that had settled over the house. Hermione passed Teddy to Ron so she could go talk to the EMT's and explain the situation. Rynan knew she had to stay still, the pain was a good encouragement, but she hated being seen as weak.
The team arrived into the sitting room with a stretcher and a neck brace. They would work on the gunshot wound once they had her neck stabilized.
The trip in the ambulance was not something Rynan wanted to repeat anytime soon. She didn't know if it was because of the unfamiliar people, the blood loss, or the shrill sirens that pounded through her head. Either way, she was glad when they finally pulled into the emergency room.
They were able to stop the bleeding and remove the bullet without having to take her into surgery but they wanted to do a CT scan to make sure there were no fractures. Somehow, nothing was fractured or broken, just severe swelling.
She was admitted to make sure the doctors didn't overlook any symptoms. They wanted to admit her for at least 36 hours.
It was a rough few days as she waited for the swelling to go down around her throat. She couldn't speak, she was on a liquid diet, and her body ached. Thankfully, the doctors discharged her when she promised to followed up in a week with her primary physician. Unfortunately, she had to go through all the paperwork with the police department to document her injuries and try to identify her attacker. Since she was a MP, they were treating this case very delicately, word had already gotten out about the attack and speculation was running rampant among the masses. She told them that she couldn't see his face, it was covered by a mask, and he didn't speak so she couldn't identify him by his accent. She did tell them that he was large, a little under two meters, and that he most likely had military training as he handled his weapons with perfect ease.
She didn't reveal anything else because she wanted to look more into this man. Clearly, he wasn't the one who ordered the attack which meant the culprit was still out there.
She didn't return home, forensics still combining through it under the watchful eye of Ron, and reporters hanging around, wanting to get an interview with her. Instead, she crashed at Ron and Hermione's place in Kent. There, she was able to have Madame Pomphey floo over and treat her injuries. The potions reduced the swelling by about 95% and completely healed the wounds on her shoulder and thigh. Sadly, she would have to keep using bruise balm for her throat.
Rynan spent her time combing over who would want her dead and who had to ability to brainwash someone. The list wasn't very long or reliable. She went over everything that happened with her two friends. They were as lost as she was. Ron promised he would kill the man, regardless if he was brainwashed or not. He had become fiercely protective of his two girls since the end of the war, not that he would tell them that. They would kill him if they thought he believed they couldn't take care of themselves. It was just that they were so headstrong and stubborn, they often disregarded their safety to reach the end goal.
Hermione was quick to start researching. It was helpful to have names even if they were generic. She searched for a James and Steve in military records from the US since Rynan indicated they spoke with an American accent. She also search for assassins with a metal arm. There couldn't be many of those. If there had been one thing Hermione had absolutely loved with the advancing of technology, it was the expansion of the internet.
It wasn't a lot of information to go on but Hermione had operated on less. She pulled in some information from Rynan's medical exam like the fact that the bullets were Soviet slugs that were untraceable. She also put in sniper training as Rynan told her about him taking out her cell phone from her hand. There was one thing that baffled Rynan though. When she had went through his memories, some of them held a frail, sickly Steve while others had him being taller and stronger. She wasn't sure what to make of that.
That ended up being the biggest piece of information for Hermione. She found out who the two were very quickly. Her hacking into the US military records provided them with information on Project Rebirth and the only candidate to be tested, Steven Roger otherwise known as Captain America. Documents followed about his exploits with the Howling Commandos and his right hand man, best friend since childhood, James (Bucky) Barnes.
Rynan was shocked at the difference between the picture of the young man and her memory. They were almost two different people!
Hermione dug deeper and discovered more about the group the Howling Commandos had been fighting, HYDRA. She found traces of HYDRA in various files but there was nothing that was pointing to anything current. The last trail Hermione could find about anything HYDRA related was in the mid 90's, right after the fall of the Soviet Union. After days of combing through files, it was Rynan who actually found the lead.
There were vague trails and non-explicit mentions but Rynan was sure it was HYDRA. They were operating a base in Ukraine that supplied weapons to the terrorist in the Iraq. That finally revealed why Rynan had been targeted. For the last few months, she had been campaigning to end the war in Iraq. She had been making some head way before the end of Parliament. Clearly, HYDRA had thought so too and wished to be rid of her.
It was two weeks later that Rynan finally returned home. She had been cleared by Madame Pomphey, and the moment she was home, her and Bill added extra layers of wards around the perimeter that stopped anyone with ill intent from entering. All she had to do was pick up Teddy from Andromeda's and they could go home.
The duo recognized Rynan's look and tried to reason with her but it was near impossible to change her mind once she was in her 'saving people' mode. Ron tried to talk her out of it while Hermione just focused on getting as much information as she could to help her friend. They had been through this dozens of times. It was better to prepared as much as possible because there was no talking Rynan out of it and she wouldn't waste her time trying. Rynan was going to save this James Buchanan Barnes if it was the last thing she did.
The introduction is done. There wasn't much crossover but it sets up much of the story and character development later on. Let me know what you think with a review!
Thank you so much for all the reviews, favorites, and followers.
Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story was playing on repeat as I edited this so some places might reflect this. If you haven't listened to it, you need to. It is an amazing piece.