hello, everyone! i know i said that i've quit FFN, but QLFC started and i've always wanted to complete the season, so i've joined up. that being said, QLFC will be my only forum obligation and so you can expect stories from me about every 2 weeks, all HP.
. . .
Unspeakable!AU, warnings for murder and death (nothing graphic)
for the QLFC, S6 Round 1:
CHASER 2: Write a setting you've never written before
(dialogue) "It's like the blind leading the blind."
(quote) Adventure is not outside man; it is within. - George Eliot
(setting) Department of Mysteries
thanks for betaing, sienna, audrey, adi, and shay! and feeding my shit muse
word count (barred AN): 2989 (i got really into this fic)
. . .
Harry was made for Unspeakable work. It beckoned to him, motioning. You and I were made for each other. Everyone will forget about you. And that's what you want, isn't it?
Indeed, it had been. Fresh out of Hogwarts, having taken his N.E.W.T.s, Harry was looking for employment, and Kingsley Shacklebolt was the one to offer it.
"So will you take the job?" Shacklebolt had asked, fingers steepled upon his desk, waiting for an answer.
"Yeah," said Harry. "I think I will."
Shacklebolt had smiled, then, and led Harry out of his office and into the Ministry lift. His finger reached out to push a blank button, dark black. The voice of the attendant rang out, "You must provide wand authorization to access the Department of Mysteries. Please press the tip of your wand to the button."
Shacklebolt withdrew his wand from his robes, and pressed the tip of it on the button. The calming voice of the attendant said again, "Identity accepted. You are now heading to the Department of Mysteries."
The lift pushed down and then it stopped with a resounding ding as the attendant spoke.
"You have reached the Department of Mysteries. Please note that all trespassers will be imprisoned and tried by the Ministry of Magic."
On that ominous note, Shacklebolt offered Harry a smile. "Don't mind the announcer. Precautions, precautions, you see?"
Harry had nodded. He knew they probably had been doing very secretive work — after all, they monitored the Hall of Prophecies, and that must just have been one of the many branches they worked in. "Of course."
Shacklebolt stepped briskly out of the lift, Harry following suit. The Department of Mysteries was beautiful: the bottom floor in the Ministry, the ceiling was lined with inlays of black and white marble, and different pillars of such alternating colors showing the different Divisions of the Department. The Unspeakables in the room, dressed impeccably in crisp robes of black with white accents — rather mirroring the rooms themselves — turned to stare, then realized that — oh, it was Harry Potter in the room. He was their newest recruit.
Shacklebolt led him to an office, the plaque reading FOR NEW UNSPEAKABLES. Shacklebolt ushered Harry in, saying, "Come, come, don't be afraid, it's really quite fun —"
That's all Harry had heard, too busy focusing on the fact that he was going to become an Unspeakable and that someday it would be him up there, robes crisp and lips sealed about his profession. It brought a strange kind of thrill to him, satisfaction to the Gryffindor side of him that yet yearned for adventure.
Shacklebolt had shut the door in order for them to begin: it was the sound of a door closed upon a past life.
. . .
The Department of Mysteries is in chaos.
"There's been a murder," says Roberts in a hushed whisper to him that morning. Harry only knows him in passing — they only really talk when something serious is going on. Roberts loves the drama, for some reason — always getting himself into the thick of it. It's not a quality Harry can respect, but it's useful for when one needs to know the goings-on in the office.
"Murders happen all the time," Harry responds. "What's special about this one?"
Roberts leans in, at Harry's side, speaking fast. "You're in the Poisons Division, aren't you? Well, they found a woman dead in her apartment earlier and it was a little odd, so the Aurors went in to investigate — doors were locked from the inside, you see, no signs of it being tampered with — and then they found traces of a poison we're investigating."
Harry looks at him in confusion. "How is that possible? The poisons in here can only be accessed by Unspeakables…"
"Exactly," says Roberts. "You know what that means."
"Someone here did it?" asks Harry incredulously. "But — no! How…? There's no way…"
Roberts casts him a dark look — Do you really believe that? he asks with his eyes — but goes off to his post nonetheless, leaving Harry to enter the Poisons Division.
Ginny's waiting for him inside the lab, the look on her face resembling fear. Her red hair is up in a bun, ready for today; they'll likely be performing analysis on the poison found in the woman who was murdered.
It's an odd thing, Harry muses, that even Ginny ended up joining the Unspeakables. She and Harry hadn't gotten back together after the war had ended; after spending so long apart, first during Harry's seventh year and then during Ginny's, neither of them was sure how to rekindle their relationship, and eventually they decided that they were better off as friends.
Ginny had passed her N.E.W.T.s with flying colors, and her war prowess had led to Shacklebolt pursuing her for a job in the Department of Mysteries.
But every now and again, his thoughts would turn to Ginny and the time in his sixth year when he'd kissed her after the Quidditch match...
"What happened?" he asks her, shaking off his turn of thought. "With the murder? That's just —"
"Unbelievable, isn't it?" she agrees. "It's hard to imagine… someone from this office, on this floor, right now…"
"Awful," says Harry. "So what's the news here? What are they saying?"
"Well," Ginny replies, "clearly it was — someone from here." Her voice wavers at the thought.
"Naturally. But how'd they do it?"
"They'd have to have access to this area. Makes the whole thing a little bit more disturbing…"
The entire thing had been disturbing before, but to know now that the pool of suspects has been narrowed to those with direct contact with the Poisons Division… it makes the thought of Unspeakable work decidedly less glorious.
Harry's probably spoken to this person. Strangely, it's not as fear-inducing of a thought as he'd expected it to be. After all, he's faced off against the man who killed his parents; Harry knows that he can do what needs to be done when it comes down to it. The person who'd decided to betray the Unspeakables, who had become Harry's true family after so long alone, would be receiving none of the mercy that Harry had granted former Death Eaters. It's scary, but also a little bit exciting: the thrill of the chase, finding someone and putting them away...
"Let's focus on the work, and then catching this person," suggests Harry. "Merlin, it just feels kind of unreal, doesn't it? Knowing that someone in here stole some poison… and used it?"
"Yeah," says Ginny, shaking her head. "I don't know how it would've even happened. Strange times, nowadays."
"All seems a little bit — odd, though. You wouldn't look at anyone's face here and think, Oh look. There's a murderer. It's all just — I dunno, a little bit weird, don't you think?"
That is all Ginny says for a while; she turns her back to him and begins her work in silence; somehow, it feels angry. Harry feels like he's missing something, but she's probably just concerned and feeling betrayed about the goings-on lately.
It's hardly any of his business, he reminds himself. They aren't dating anymore.
. . .
Chaotic as the Department is, there is, thankfully, still some semblance of rationality. As such, Harry is given summons into Shacklebolt's office.
"Let me be blunt, Harry," says Shacklebolt when Harry steps in. "You're the only one I trust to conduct this investigation. Someone working with the Poisons Division has stolen our resources and used them for ill, and you're the only person I know is innocent. You saved the wizarding world. I don't believe you're looking for more publicity or more chaos."
"Right you are, Sir," Harry says promptly — there's rationale in his argument, but it is still thinly veiled Savior Privilege. It irks Harry a bit, but who is he to complain when it puts off suspicion? Still, he wants to know what Shacklebolt would say, so he asks, "But why me? Why not Ginny or —"
"Ginny is a kindred spirit," says Kingsley. "Fierce, but unpredictable. You, Harry, work in the Poisons Division and are perfectly reliable in your methods, which makes you my best bet in catching this criminal."
"Where are the case details, Sir?" asks Harry. At this, Shacklebolt withdraws a manila file from a drawer in his desk, labeled Poison, and hands it to Harry. He opens it, flipping through, noting the pictures of the woman and the results of the poison analysis.
"The poison was administered very precisely, through injection. Whoever was doing this wanted the ruckus and the death."
"Jaclyn Wells, 37, slight Death Eater activity but not enough for conviction, slight involvement in the Battle of Hogwarts… 6 months in jail for an explosion she caused there… 1,050 Galleons in damage… There's very little information here otherwise," notes Harry.
"There was very little information available," says Shacklebolt. "This is the work of an Unspeakable, all right."
Harry takes the file in his hands and stands, ready to leave — sensing there isn't much point in his presence here anymore. "That's all, Sir?"
"Yes," sighs Shacklebolt. "Do be on a high alert, Harry. The murderer could be anyone."
Harry shuts the door behind him, clutching the file as he returns to the Poisons Division. He vows to himself that he will solve this case — whatever it takes.
. . .
The Department is not so much chaotic as it is filled with suspicion now; Unspeakables are giving each other sideways glances as an atmosphere of fear permeates the department.
Everyone thinks their neighbor is hiding something. Everyone knows that someone on the floor is hiding something.
Roberts decides he's going to take charge. He has a whole speech prepared, complete with index cards and a box for reporting where "suspicions can be channeled effectively" because "we're decimating our partnerships!" It isn't long before Harry tunes him out, turning instead to Ginny, who rolls her eyes.
"It's like the blind leading the blind," she remarks through the side of her mouth. "Utter rubbish." With this proclamation, she sweeps back into the Potions Division, ready to focus once more on her work with the kind of quiet passion that their colleagues both fear and admire.
. . .
Surely Ginny knows what she's doing to him — doesn't she? Her hair glistens somehow in the dark room, flashes of crimson as she moves around from station to station and from lab to lab. She works with an intensity Harry can't place or ignore.
No, she doesn't know what it does to him: how could she? Harry can hardly deny any longer that he is still wholly attracted to Ginevra Weasley, even after all these years. She has, if anything, only gotten more beautiful with age, the reds in her hair darkening and the bright hue of her eyes brightening.
Has she gotten over him? Perhaps it is narcissistic of him, but Harry was Ginny's first love. One hardly got over that kind of thing quickly, did they?
Or perhaps Harry is lying to himself, convincing himself that Ginny is as drawn to him with every glance as he is to her. Convincing himself that they can still work out.
"Harry…?" Ginny waves a hand in front of his face. "Harry!"
"Ah!" Harry jostles out of his thoughts, only to realize he's spent a long while staring at her like a lovesick fish. He wonders how questionable he looks to her.
" What's going on, Harry?" she asks, laughing. "You're distracted."
"I was just —" Harry tries to speak, but he can't get the words out.
I was just thinking about how I've never stopped loving you.
"What? Come on, spit it out — I don't bite!"
"I was — I was thinking, just that —"
"Stop being a coward, Harry." Ginny shoots Harry an encouraging smile. "Summon your Gryffindor courage. Say it."
"I — Ginny, I've — I want to be with you. I still want to be with you, and I know that this is really random and you might not want to, which is also fine —"
Harry's interrupted by lips on his, soft and inviting, spreading a tingle throughout his nerves.
"Don't say a thing, Harry," Ginny says softly. "My place tonight?"
. . .
Harry remembers Ginny's laugh, the one accompanied by a grin when they'd been together. She laughs that laugh now, as they make their way to her flat. Her teeth nip lightly at Harry's lips and Merlin, Harry's missed this. He's missed her.
Her lips move down to trace his collarbone — dimly, it registers in Harry's mind that they've actually entered the flat somewhere along the way.
"No, wait —" Harry says a little breathlessly, because he hasn't actually been inside Ginny's flat before. He'd like to see it before they get to the bedroom (at this rate, they will).
"Have your look," says Ginny coyly. "I'll wait inside."
Harry decides his look will be quick: after all, it's bad manners to keep a lady waiting.
The countertop is a mess, papers everywhere and a syringe resting innocuously under a paper — not quite fully visible but still distinguishable —
A syringe — the murder weapon — Ginny having access — "Fierce, but unpredictable…" — She wouldn't. Would she…?
Does Harry even know her anymore?
Harry walks toward the counter and grabs the syringe. He walks almost hypnotically to the door he saw Ginny close a while earlier, and walks inside.
Ginny is waiting for him: Harry holds up the syringe, and she shoots up off the bed.
"Care to explain why there's a syringe on your countertop?" he asks angrily. "You know, with all the murderous business happening with a syringe."
"Harry, please. I can explain," she pleads.
"To hell with your explanations! Either you're on drugs or you killed someone, and neither option is looking very good for you right now, Ginny! Why — why?" Harry shouts.
"Would you just let me —"
"I want to know why!"
"She killed him! That woman I murdered — she killed Fred! I've been searching. It was hard, you know… she wasn't Marked. She was just a sympathizer. She just set off a little bomb because she liked to stir up shit and that killed my brother!" Words pour out of Ginny like a dam broken; now that she's spoken, she can't stop. "You know how it felt when I heard — that this was just a woman who decided it would be a right bit of fun to strike a bomb…"
"And I figured it's my time! All they say about you is 'Harry Potter, the great hero,' but there were others, too! We all fought, but everyone decided they'd worship the ground you walked on! They would talk of your adventures when the rest of us went on having them… they would talk about your risks when the rest of us took just as many… I thought I should do it myself. It wouldn't be satisfying otherwise. And it was kind of an adventure, finding her, killing her, doing it just right…
"'Adventure is not outside man; it is within.' That one's George Eliot… and it's quite right too… I went calling for adventure and something inside me answered, Harry. There was a part of me that Tom Riddle never really left, you know? Wanting to crawl out — and it did! It whispered in my ear, told me how to do it, because honestly the job does really bore me and I'd love to stir up a little ruckus… and who would suspect little Ginny Weasley, Gryffindor golden girl… the Savior's ex?"
Her anger has dimmed: all that remains of it is a bright flame of darkness, this side to Ginny that Harry's never seen before.
She's done such awful things; she's killed, she's destroyed. And somehow, Harry can't stop loving her.
He hates himself for that.
"Now, all that's left are a few loose ends… you see, I can't lose my job. I have to be the hero. I get so sick of you taking credit for everyone else. It's my time to shine," she purrs. "But for now, you're the biggest thread, Harry, so forgive me, but I must tie you…"
She pulls out her wand, and before Harry can blink she's fired off a Stupefy.
Harry can't move. He falls onto the floor, knocked back by the force of the spell: he can't get up. The thought to take out his own wand hadn't even occurred to him — she was Ginny. Ron's sister. His friend.
"What, will you ask, happens after? Won't the first suspicion be cast upon me? No, no, you see." Ginny crouches to look at Harry's fallen form. "It was self-defense! Harry had a little syringe in his bag — and thank you for bringing it on what you thought would be an overnight stay. Great foresight, darling — and you know, Harry'd told me himself that the murder was done with a syringe… He drew his wand out at me…" Ginny reached into his coat, withdrew his wand from it, and dropped it on the floor. "I had to kill him… he would've killed me…"
"Everyone says my name with yours — I'm more than that, you know? More than Harry's girlfriend. You've always known that. I'm more than you… and now they'll see it… I'm afraid this is goodbye, Harry. I've got to Floo the Ministry soon. They'll want to know what happened… and they'll want to know what they've found…"
The flash of green light shoots out at him in slow motion. It's too late anyway.
The last thing Harry sees is Ginny — she presses her lips to his forehead, and then rises.
The door clicks shut behind her.