In the end, that conversation had continued well past young Mr Potter's curfew.
There'd been questions about why Harriet hadn't gone back to being male, which – in the wake of Harriet commenting that it was a bother and that she'd already fixed her only real issue she'd had with being female – led to a discussion about whether or not literally removing your womb in order to avoid having your period again was an overreaction or not.
Lily had seemed pretty horrified about it, Sirius seemed torn because his mother likely would've been completely outraged and he was fundamentally opposed to anything she wasn't opposed to. James mostly worried about potential health-problems that might appear because of it, and Mr Potter spent most of it being very confused about what they were talking about.
Argo mostly laughed herself sick, before collecting herself, and then breaking out into giggles again. Apparently, the idea of Harriet – crazy reckless and lethally competent Curse Breaker that she was – had reacted to periods by metaphorically screeching and running away, was inherently hilarious to the woman.
Things didn't really calm down until Andromeda interrupted the discussion in order to hug Harriet.
Trust Andromeda to see right through Harriet's annoyance with periods into her core certainty that she really wasn't cut out for being a parent.
She'd tried with Teddy. She'd done everything she could to raise him right, even if she couldn't let go of her first true passion in life. She loved Curse Breaking. The idea of trying to live without it was terrifying, but it's hard to be a parent when you spend most of your time on the other side of the planet.
She'd tried, and she'd managed to make time for the big events, but the small ones? The everyday ones? She only ever heard of those from Andromeda.
Harriet had grown up an orphan, and she wouldn't wish that aching loneliness on anyone. And even if maybe Harriet would've been more present than a dead person, her only excuse for it would've been that she loved her work more than her child.
Basically, she would've rather shoved a handful of barbed wire down her own throat, than condemn any child to the ordeal of having her as a parent.
Was removing her own womb a bit of an overreaction? Well, not really. Considering some of the wards that she'd encountered over the years, being surprised by her own period could've had lethal consequences when she accidentally spilled blood, not to mention the pain and general misery that she had no desire to be exposed to.
From there, she had two options if she absolutely needed to stop having periods, she could perform a ritual every other month to pause it, or one single ritual where she would never have to worry about the problem again. The fact that the latter option also made it impossible for her to have children? She was fine with that.
And if she ever retired some day down the line, and found herself absolutely needing to have a kid of her own, she could damn well adopt one. It wasn't like a kid needed to be hers by blood for her to love them. Teddy had proved that much.
Harriet very carefully continued to not mention the fact that she'd also carved out her own perfectly-functioning eye as well, because even if there was a perfectly reasonable explanation, she wasn't dumb enough to share it with anyone.
She didn't particularly care about what gender she was, and she was honestly mostly alright with being biologically eighteen and being able to get around her bad knees, but Harriet was the Curse Breaker with the Stone hidden in her eye. That was a piece of her identity that she wouldn't ever let go of without a fight.
Not much more of note happened, beyond Argo making some noise about determining Harriet's exact biological age, for her 'peace of mind' or something. Harriet wasn't entirely sure what she was on about, but Argo breathed a sigh of relief when it turned out to be eighteen, and Sirius started to snicker gleefully from his corner, so Harriet was probably just missing a joke or something.
Despite a very good showing from all three of the champions in the Second Task, their limelight was stolen by Argo forcing through an article about Gringotts violating the treaty of non-disclosure.
It was the kind of thing that had the entire public up in arms, because everyone had a vested interest in making sure that Gringotts didn't go around 'bending' their rules. After all, one of their rules was that they wouldn't steal from people's vaults, and everyone had a vault with the goblins.
Harriet didn't, but that was because she was crazy and kept all of her money carefully stashed away on her person. She'd never gotten along with Gringotts, even in her own world, and hadn't wanted to tempt fate.
So a lot of people were very upset about the idea that Gringotts was breaking their rules. And, of course, Gringotts responded very quickly to that public outcry.
They found the goblin responsible for the leak to Skeeter, and they beheaded them.
Fudge hurriedly held a speech about how the leak had been silenced and that panicking was unnecessary, and that the Ministry trusted Gringotts and didn't want to kick-start another completely pointless war.
Except-... Except nowhere in the treaty did it ever mention that Gringotts could casually behead one of their goblins, especially not if they'd committed a crime against a non-goblin. That was the Ministry's territory.
Oh, the Ministry might hold a really pathetic trial about it, and then conclude that the goblin should be beheaded. But it was the Ministry's decision to do so, since it was a non-goblin who'd been affected by their crime, not Gringotts'.
Now, obviously, the truth was that Fudge was just trying to sweep the whole thing under the rug as quickly as possible. However, the fact of the matter was that as a result he was now in official violation of the treaty himself.
And, after a harsh conversation with Argo about what that actually meant, the Daily Prophet had unofficially blacklisted Fudge. They could see where the winds were turning, and even if Fudge was in power currently, he was either going to get thrown out of office, or launch Magical Britain into another war with the goblin-nation. So they didn't particularly want to be known as being all that supportive of him.
In other words, despite only being hired on for the Triwizard Tournament, Argo was given the official green light to write whatever the hell she wanted about what was actually going on between Fudge and Gringotts.
So she did.
By late March, Fudge and the administrators of Gringotts were dragged before the Wizengamot for violating the treaty between them.
Or, they would've been. Except, Fudge basically went into hiding, and Gringotts barred its doors, so no trial could really be performed.
Sure, they could be tried in absentia, but the Wizengamot needed someone from the goblin-nation to be present because of some of the rules of the ICW, and since all the goblins were locked away inside of Gringotts, that wasn't going to happen.
Everything was officially at a standstill. The Ministry couldn't work, because their Minister had run away before anyone could toss him out. Businesses couldn't pay or be paid, because all of the money was locked away inside of Gringotts. And the Triwizard Tournament was dead in the water.
A few weeks later in early April, Harriet finally got sick of everyone complaining about how incompetent the aurors were for being unable to break into what amounted as a fortified embassy, or track down a man who'd likely been planning his escape since the first time he started taking bribes.
Thankfully, she knew a few tracking spells that would've probably have been made explicitly illegal if anyone had ever remembered that they'd existed. And she'd broken down wards a hell of a lot scarier than what could be found at Gringotts.
She didn't particularly look forward to the idea of basically going to war over this, but at this point Magical Britain would starve itself to death from economical problems. She couldn't just sit back and hope someone else fixed the problem, even if she despised the idea of getting involved in politics.
She wasn't educated in politics, and she didn't have the patience for politics, and her reading-comprehension of legalese was basically nonexistent. Law-making and politics was for people who'd be able to stand before the Wizengamot and not outright hex the members into oblivion for being annoying.
Said and done, she sent an owl to Dumbledore to ask him to gather the full Wizengamot for the trial, and she'd go fetch their wayward defendants.
The courtroom turned abruptly silent as Harriet slammed open the doors with a wave of her wand, and then continued to drag Fudge and the six goblins into the middle of the room.
Fudge was puking slugs and sniffling pathetically to himself. One of the goblins was still struggling against the heavy iron chains binding him, another was still reeling from a concussion, and the other four were various shades of resigned and outraged.
And after Harriet, another dozen goblins entered the room, all looking nervous but determined.
It took even Dumbledore a few moments to gather himself, and then the trial started with all of the formality demanded of it.
Harriet mostly tuned it out, because she was trying to make sure that the concussed Gringotts-administrator wouldn't die on them. She hadn't expected him to stand right behind the ruddy door, and so she'd miscalculated a bit.
He needed to be coherent in order to properly defend himself – as much as he could defend himself, considering how deeply they'd all dug themselves into a hole – and if he died because Harriet had been handling him too roughly she'd never forgive herself. He was a bastard, but Harriet hadn't signed up to be an executioner, and she wasn't ever planning on doing so.
It took them a bit to go through all of the accusations, and then Harriet made a loud bang with her wand, before motioning to the dozen non-chained goblins who'd followed her into the courtroom.
"The Wizengamot has read its accusations. The goblin-nation will now add its own." She said with all the blunt certainty of someone who'd absolutely hex anyone who tried to interrupt things.
Gringotts was a complicated institution.
The bank had been originally founded as a way to link the Wizarding World and the goblin-nation together, after a few too many wars. But with its founding, it'd also severely limited what goblins were allowed to do. Goblins worked for Gringotts, or they didn't work at all.
That might not have sounded so bad if there'd been enough space for all goblins to work as bankers. Even if they might not have enjoyed the work, it would've still been work that they could've performed.
However, as time went by and Gringotts became an ever-more-present part of goblin-life, things started to shift. Goblins became less 'goblins' and more 'Gringotts employees', and the profits that'd kept the rest of the goblin-nation afloat, had instead been completely monopolized by a select few. The administrators of Gringotts.
For all that goblins were supposedly infamous for their greed, they really weren't any more greedy than the average human. They were perhaps more prone to appreciating sparkly things, but that could range from enjoying jewelry to hoarding cool-looking river-rocks.
The problem was that they didn't have a 'private sector' for work. There was Gringotts, and there was wandering off into a forest, never to be seen or heard from again. Which was why Gringotts desperately tried to expand into everything it could get its fingers into, in order to lessen its own unemployment-rate.
Which obviously led the bank to getting even more money, and making higher profits. And then those profits helped to widen the gap between the administrators and the regular goblins even further.
Goblins were bitter and nasty to people, because they lived and died at the whims of corporate greed. And they couldn't escape, because Gringotts was the only place where goblins could work.
So, the reason why Harriet was followed by a dozen goblins who weren't accused for violating the treaty, was that Harriet really didn't want to have to do this again. And unless the Wizengamot managed to settle an adjustment of the treaty that would allow for goblins to themselves dissolve Gringotts' complete monopoly on their lives, there would undoubtedly be another situation like this sooner or later.
Harriet hadn't really been all that aware of Gringotts in her own world. They hated her, and she kind of undermined them at every turn when it came to Curse Breaking, but she'd never really tried to understand them.
However, it was hard to ignore that something was rotten in Gringotts, when a small group of goblins had gone so far as to beg her to allow them some opportunity to change things, even as Harriet had been dragging their leaders kicking and screaming out through the door.
She only had a vague understanding of the problem, and she wasn't even close to figuring out any kind of solution for it, but they deserved to have their voices be heard.
And she could at least do that much.
"I thought you were a Curse Breaker, not-..." Lily made a vague gesture with her hand. "Not whatever that was."
"I am?" Harriet wasn't sure what kind of question that was. "It's not that hard to break into Gringotts, I told you this once already."
"They'd closed their gates and fortified themselves in place!" Lily exclaimed. "That's not 'hard to break into' that's taking on an entire nation single-handedly!"
Harriet supposed that she had a point. The guards of Gringotts were good at what they did, and what they did often amounted to stabbing people who disturbed the peace. But that just meant you had to remember not to get stabbed. Hardly something worth making a fuss about.
"No matter how good you are at stabbing people with a spear, there are some inherent limitations with trying to stab someone with a spear." Harriet started. "First and foremost among them being that you need to be able to get close enough to stab them. So I just didn't let them do that. It's not that hard."
"Wouldn't they have surrounded you?" Sirius asked.
"Yes? But there are plenty of spells that can be used to trap people, or stick them to walls." Harriet shrugged. "It was a bit messy trying to track down the goblins in charge when I was in the middle of not getting stabbed, but yeah. I wouldn't recommend it or anything, but it wasn't that bad."
"I'm starting to wonder about the whole Curse Breaker profession." Lily muttered to herself, shaking her head.
Argo made an offended noise. "I'll have you know that it's Azalea who's crazy, not the rest of us."
"Oh yeah, you used to be a big-shot, didn't you?" Sirius perked up, always eager for a good story.
Harriet made a face. "I guess? It was a bit complicated, and there's a bunch of specialists who can still talk rings around me, you know."
"How many?" Argo asked flatly.
Harriet paused, put on the spot. "Well, there's Kagome... and some of what Inuyasha does can definitely scratch at it sometimes, and... there was a guy in Tibet? I think? Oh, and there's this complete tosser from Panama who I think can actually smell hidden things or something? I hate that guy."
Argo remained silent for a long moment, before making a small frustrated sound. "Alright, so that's four. Three-and-a-half, considering Higurashi makes sense to you. And you've literally just named the four absolute top specialists in the world."
"Yes?" Harriet tilted her head, a little bit confused. "What's your point?"
"Wait." Mr Potter spoke up, reminding everyone that he was still there, and had not in fact gone to bed yet. "Didn't Professor McGonagall recruit you at wand-point?"
Sirius started to virtually vibrate in his seat, glee on his face, clearly not having heard this story before.
"Yes, how did she manage that?" Lily asked, sounding suspiciously calm.
Harriet opened her mouth to defend Minerva's ability with a wand, but ended up closing it again. She was pretty impressive, but she hadn't even really been comparable to Ginny in a snit, let alone Hermione or Ron.
"I didn't want to use anything dangerous?" Harriet shrugged awkwardly, a little bit embarrassed. She'd always liked her old Head of House, and it was hard to imagine fighting her for real.
"You fought with the Headmistress of Hogwarts, underneath Hogwarts's wards, whilst holding back, and you didn't fold immediately?" Sirius asked for clarification, eyes wide.
"Fold?" Harriet frowned at him, a bit confused. "I suppose it might've ended quicker, but she was pretty mad, you know? I'm not dumb enough to surrender my wand when a woman that angry goes after me."
There was a long pause as everyone stared at Harriet.
"Are you telling me... that you fought Minerva McGonagall, when she had full control of Hogwarts's wards, whilst you were holding back, when she was spitting mad, and you... won?" Sirius asked, sounding more than a little bit horrified.
Harriet made a face. "I mean, it was more that I let her get it out of her system and waited for her to calm down, which took like... ten-ish hours? I think?"
There was another long pause.
Argo giggled, a little bit hysterically. "See? She's like this all the time!"
"Umm, do you know anyone better than you in a fight?" Mr Potter asked, sounding curious.
Harriet blinked at the younger and very different version of herself. "That's kind of-..." Harriet frowned thoughtfully. "Hermione knows more spells than I do, and Ron is better at switching between offense and defense. Luna is really good at being creative with what she does with her spells, and Ginny is really good at moving around. But... they're kind of specialized, so if you know them well enough you can just exploit the openings and win that way?"
"Is there anyone in the world who knows more spells than your Hermione?" Mr Potter asked again, sounding rather skeptical of this idea.
"Well, no? She's a spell-creator in her spare time. We had to drag her out of the Department of Mysteries a few times when we were younger. But I think she's just absorbed everything that they know by now." Harriet smiled, nostalgically fond.
Argo clearly clued into whatever Mr Potter was doing, because she asked her own question. "How does Ginny move around?"
"She generally takes a bunch of brooms with her, and then she jumps between them." Harriet shook her head, still smiling. "She's really hard to hit, but she gets tired pretty quickly. I don't think she's ever lasted past two hours."
Argo made a strange gesture with her arms, as if to present Harriet to the rest of the group. "Harriet Azalea, ladies and gentlemen."
Harriet frowned at her, not sure what she was getting at. But she was interrupted from asking by Sirius beginning to smack his head against the table.
"I think I need to sit down." Lily said, staring at a wall, and very obviously not making any moves to find a seat.
"Oh, but the inferi are boring after the first few times you encounter them." Sirius muttered to himself, continuing to bang his head against the table. "Of course they're bloody boring when your friends could probably take down Dumbledore, and you think they're 'pretty good'."
Harriet blinked. She'd-... She didn't think she'd ever really considered any of her friends going up against Dumbledore before? And now that she was thinking about it, she wasn't entirely sure who'd win.
Didn't that mean that her friends were pretty scary?
Wait, but Harriet could distinctly remember a few playful spars where all four of them turned against Harriet and Harriet still won, despite being outnumbered. But that'd just been because they hadn't had a lot of practice working as a team, right?
Except... now that Harriet really thought about it, hadn't Ron and Ginny complained about having planned on setting that up beforehand? As in, maybe actually tried practicing to fight together before challenging her?
But Harriet wasn't that good, right? She'd nearly lost an eye that one time... to a spell that'd veered off oddly after interacting with an enchanted object, when she hadn't been able to sleep properly for nearly three weeks, because Scrimgeour kept changing her schedule on her.
Harriet briefly considered questioning everything she'd ever known about her own skill-level when it came to fights. But then she remembered that she had classes early in the morning.
If she was going to have to have a midlife-crisis, then she was going to damn well have it over the weekend.
The Third Task came and went, without any resolution to the Gringotts-situation.
Not for lack of activity, mind you, but rather because the Wizengamot – under Dumbledore's stern gaze – was making very sure that this kind of situation was never encouraged into existence again.
Apparently, he and Filius had been having very long and serious talks about goblin-discrimination and how easily that translates into the emergence of another Gringotts. So, whatever was actually happening on that front, Harriet was fairly convinced that it was going in the right direction.
Fleur Delacour became the new Champion of the Triwizard Tournament, and celebrated by lifting Miss Lovegood over her head and spinning.
Which was weird, because Luna and Fleur had never been all that close in Harriet's old world. And now-... Now she wasn't entirely certain as to what their relationship was.
Harriet had introduced the two of them to make sure that Miss Delacour didn't accidentally kill all of them when experimenting with the wards in Harriet's book. But she hadn't really paid much attention to how their relationship had developed from there.
Considering the age-difference, Harriet hoped that it wasn't romantic in nature. It might be a bit hypocritical of her, considering the massive age-difference between Remus and Tonks, but it was pretty different when one of them hadn't even sat their OWLs, and the other one should've just finished their NEWTs.
She wasn't really going to start interfering, because Miss Delacour wasn't a Hogwarts-student and what Miss Lovegood did outside of school was between herself and her father. But she did hope that it was either purely friendship, or that Fleur was willing to keep her hands and feelings to herself until Miss Lovegood was properly an adult.
And not 'graduated from Hogwarts'-adult, but an actual 'has an established career'-adult. There was a difference, and Harriet had seen some really disturbing people trying to pretend that there wasn't one.
She was pretty sure that Miss Delacour was a better person than that, but it was the kind of worry that sprung to her mind when they danced around each other happily in a way that was very reminiscent of what Ginny and Harriet had used to do whenever Ginny won a quidditch-game.
Less outright snogging though, so Harriet was just going to pretend that that comparison was her own overactive imagination, and simply refuse to acknowledge it.
Miss Lovegood was pretty good at seeing through people's motives, so she would've probably clued in if Miss Delacour was up to no good. And Mr Lovegood was pretty protective of her too, so it would probably work out alright, whatever the exact nature of their relationship turned out to be.
Beyond that surprise, the reactions were rather varied.
Hagrid had teared up when he realized how many lethally dangerous creatures had ended up getting hurt whilst doing their jobs of trying to stop the competitors from getting to the center of the maze. Andromeda clapped politely and looked as if she was planning to excommunicate anyone who was too cheerful about Hogwarts's loss.
Karkaroff was huffing in impotent fury, barking angrily at anyone who came too close to him. Minerva was grumbling under her breath and likely desperately wishing that she hadn't vowed to quit drinking after the spectacular hangover she'd ended up with in the wake of Harriet interfering in the Gringotts-situation. And Madame Maxine was beaming with the vicious pride of a woman vindicated.
Sybill was loudly bemoaning her own faulty interpretation of what her third eye had told her, which apparently was that it was their graphic defeat that she'd seen, not their horrible demises. Several students were hanging on her every word, clearly convinced that she'd merely misinterpreted the signs because the defeat had been so mercilessly vicious.
So she certainly seemed to be having fun.
Sirius was pouting as he paid out whatever he owed to James, who'd managed to snag a place in the audience, and who was all but crowing in glee at having apparently placed his bet on the right champion. Lily was sitting next to them and looked very exasperated with them both.
Argo took lots of photos, purely professional once more. Young Mr Malfoy was seething in outrage, along with a very carefully silent portion of the other Slytherins who'd likely been hoping for either Durmstrang or Hogwarts to emerge victorious.
All in all, it was a much better ending for the Triwizard Tournament than what Harriet remembered from her own time-line. And she was happy that she could say that she'd played a part in that.
But she was still hoping that the whole thing fell apart after this, because she really didn't want to deal with another Yule Ball.
There hadn't been any solutions to the Gringotts-situation by the time summer-break rolled around either, but then that should've perhaps been expected, what with the Ending Feast being barely a few days after the end of the Third Task.
Harriet had watched a lot of tearful farewells, not the least of which from a certain Mr Krum to a certain Miss Granger.
Considering what she'd seen between Miss Delacour and Miss Lovegood, Harriet couldn't actually tell for sure if Miss Granger and Mr Weasley would end up together in this world. Perhaps she'd changed things so fundamentally that even that seemingly absolute certainty had shifted. Perhaps she hadn't. Time would tell, and it wasn't really any of Harriet's business, regardless.
Still, the idea of things changing from what she'd known in her own world had reminded her of a certain dig that'd gone to hell over in Siberia.
From what people had managed to piece together in the aftermath, the Curse Breaker in charge had been... either under the influence of something very nasty, or had been trying to get everyone killed.
They'd ignored a lot of general safety-regulations, and had somehow managed to convince the people around them to do so as well. Which was strange, but could be down to them having trusted that the Curse Breaker in question had known what they were doing.
The end result had been a blizzard that'd lasted through two summers, and the complete burying of whatever they might've found under a newly formed glacier.
It wouldn't happen for another decade or so, in her own time-line, but she'd already proven that things could change rather substantially from things she'd barely interfered with at all. And she'd just lost Gringotts its monopoly on Curse Breaking, so that was probably rather significant.
It wasn't the first time Curse Breakers got themselves or others killed, but-...
But, normally, Harriet hadn't gone back in time and gotten to know one of the people who'd disappeared under the ice. And even if Argo would probably be very offended if Harriet ever admitted exactly why she maybe wanted to poke at it without Argo in the area, it was still-...
It wasn't like she needed to tell Argo that that's why she was going to Siberia. And besides, Argo was clearly already invested in the idea of going to a warm beach somewhere, rather than play around in the permafrost.
Harriet knew this, because Argo had invited her. Though the invitation in itself had come off sounding a bit weird. Harriet wasn't entirely sure why Argo wanted to visit a nude beach, beyond her admission to never having gone to one before, or why some of the whole invitation had sounded eerily scripted, as if she'd been practicing it to herself.
Harriet sincerely doubted that Argo had wasted her time trying to practice inviting Harriet along to a nude beach. That sounded more like something Ron would've done when trying to convince Hermione to go on some romantic date that he was too embarrassed to mention in casual conversation, rather than something the always-confident Argo would've bothered with.
Still, she'd see how much time she still had left before the school-start once she'd finished in Siberia.
It could get pretty chilly, even during the summer and without two-year-long blizzards, and relaxing in a warmer climate than Hogwarts in autumn was probably not a bad idea in the aftermath.
She hadn't actually managed to tell Argo that, but she guessed that Argo must've expected it, because instead of continuing to mention the beaches, Argo had pressed a key into Harriet's hand. A key that was supposedly for Argo's apartment in Crete.
It'd be interesting to see Crete again. She'd only really dropped by for a few things several years ago – or, several years from now, respectively – so she wasn't sure how much would've changed.
But hopefully she'd be able to finish her work in Siberia with a few weeks to spare to go meet up with Argo before school started up again.
She wasn't entirely sure what Argo actually planned to do in Crete, but was guessing that it probably included finding a warm beach to relax on, and if the woman had an apartment there then she probably had some interesting work-related things around as well.
Harriet smiled a little to herself as she fiddled with the small boat she'd bought to get to where she wanted. It was definitely something to look forward to.
A bit like having someone to come home to after an expedition-...
Harriet paused, suddenly a little bit unsure about her train of thought. Harriet rifled through her pockets to pull out the key again. Why had-...
Harriet felt her face suddenly heating up, as she was suddenly reminded of Argo inviting her to nude beaches. And then that she'd given Harriet the key to her apartment.
But that couldn't be-... Harriet would've realized if-... Right?
Harriet made a small whimpering sound as her mind was suddenly enthusiastically assaulted by images of what Argo might look like when visiting a nude beach.
In lieu of a cold shower, Harriet could really do with that several-year-long blizzard right about now.
Somewhere between the fifth and sixth century, a Dark Lady – or Lord, the records seemed to imply Lady, but from some of the phrasing it was also possible that the Dark Lady in question had merely stumbled across it – had come up with the brilliant idea to end the world.
Rather than doing so by trying to conquer or enslave people, she'd reasonable come to the conclusion that human-made empires tended to fall, often before they finished conquering the entirety of the world.
Instead, her idea had been to cut out the risk of human error, and simply have nature to the job for her. After all, it wasn't like anyone could fight back against a natural disaster. It would do what it decided to do, the best anyone could hope for was to endure it until it was finished.
Unfortunately for her plans, that same unstoppable existence made nature very resistant to someone trying to manipulate it into ending the world. So, ever the enterprising Dark Lady, she'd decided to set up a nature-based cascade-failure that should swallow the world.
Which had led her to the rather inhospitable Siberia and its long winters.
The basic idea was to use a ritual to cause a blizzard, which would then cover the area with so much snow and ice that it would trigger the start of a new ice-age. However, not wanting to settle for grand ecological destruction, the Dark Lady had been planning to set up a bunch of resonating anchors across the world for similar rituals to trigger time and again until the entire planet would be covered in ice.
Needless to say, she only ever managed to get the single anchor around Siberia operational before she'd finally died.
Considering that she had records and personal notes on the project spanning the course of nearly three centuries, Harriet was willing to guess that she'd been forcefully prolonging her life to get even that far. And from the many notes that mentioned rituals and potions that might help with 'combating rot', Harriet was guessing that she'd very much reached the end of her rope.
By the time a 'magically ageless' body started to rot, the wizard or witch inhabiting it would start to lose their ability to think straight. It was one of those things that Bill had a lot more experience with than Harriet, but from how confused and faltering the notes after the first few mentions of that tended to be, she really couldn't find reason to doubt it.
So the Dark Lady had been unable to finish her life's work of killing all life on the planet, because her body had rotted away from under her before she could finish it. Good times.
However, her anchor in Siberia had been very much functional, and from how it'd been set up, Harriet was guessing that her old time-line had done a pretty decent job at disassembling it, even if they had been ignoring a lot of the usual safety-precautions.
This wasn't a blizzard designed to last for two years, it was a blizzard designed to continue raging for the better part of a decade. And the fact that it'd been unable to do so, likely meant that the expedition in her old world had at least partially lessened its ability to do what it was designed for.
It still took Harriet the better part of two weeks to disentangle the ritual until it could be recorded and removed in its entirety, but it was definitely an interesting experience.
So Harriet had had plenty of time to rethink Argo's invitation to nude-beaches and the like. Oh, Argo was very attractive, and the thought of her undressed to that extent was definitely distracting, but Argo was also an incorrigible tease.
She'd probably realized that Harriet liked women after the whole confession about her origin, and the fact that she'd dated a girl at one point, and had decided to make fun of her a little.
It was maybe a little bit sad, but mostly just a bit embarrassing that Harriet had been reading anything into it. Argo liked to tease, so she'd obviously tease her friends if she had the opportunity. It just made sense.
Still, an invitation was an invitation, and Harriet really was curious about how Crete might've changed since the last time she'd seen it.
Which was why Harriet eased the door open after she heard Argo's voice calling from inside to do so.
It was a nice apartment, neat to the point where Harriet was willing to bet that Argo had cleaned it up before Harriet arrived. Argo was very good at organizing things, but Harriet had seen the woman dealing with the paperwork of Yharnam, and the idea that she'd have a coffee-table that wasn't filled with coffee-mugs and scattered pages was somewhat absurd.
And that was about as much of it as Harriet managed to notice before she spotted Argo standing by the couch, bending over to pick something up from the other side, giving Harriet a very clear view of the sheer lingerie she was wearing.
Harriet's throat made a weird noise as her heart suddenly decided to pump all the blood in her entire body into her face.
Argo glanced over her shoulder, a sly smile on her lips that shifted straight into relief the moment she spotted her. "Oh thank god. I was starting to worry your were straight."
Harriet made a high-pitched sound as she tried to bring some air into her suddenly constricting lungs, and tried to ignore her heart racing a mile a minute.
Argo paused, then her lips shifted back into a smile. A very fond but also clearly amused smile. "Breathe, Harriet. You can save making that face for when we inspect the bedroom."
Following the command, Harriet took a deep breath, and then another, feeling more like a fish on land than a sensible human being.
"There you go." Argo sauntered over to her, exaggeratedly swinging her hips with a gleefully anticipatory grin on her face, until she was close enough that Harriet could feel her own breath on Harriet's suddenly very dry lips. "Did anyone ever tell you that you're as dense as a rock?"
Harriet could definitely remember Hermione mentioning something to that effect, a great many years ago. But the details of it were very hard to place, because Argo was wearing lingerie and smiling at her.
Argo's smile shifted back into that happily fond one again. "Don't worry, I'll be gentle."
And she was.
She really really was.
For sixteen hours straight.
Apparently, Argo really hadn't been exaggerating when she'd mentioned that she'd been named an unofficial patron saint of physical pleasures after her funeral. She definitely lived up to it.
A/n: Aaand that's a wrap, people.
Considering that the longest story I'd ever written before this one clocked in at 45k words (back in 2010), I'd like to officially applaud myself for doubling that record in this story.
This fic was originally written because I wanted to read something Indiana Jones-like, with lots of focus on that kind of stuff. However, it only really became what it is because I decided to re-read "Jamie Evans Fate's Fool" by The Mad Mad Reviewer (which is really quite excellent, for all that I found some parts of it rather disagreeable when I read it again), and "Something Wicked This Way Comes" by the same author (which was even more excellent of a read now that I've played Disgaea properly).
So, yeah. I started writing this last Christmas, and then published it as I edited it.
I'd also like to note that (despite several dozen attempts by many individuals) nobody has managed to convince me that unasked for criticism is in any way shape or form helpful to an author (which I say as someone who's many times tried to take criticism to heart in the past, with very little impact), and would like to once again ask people not to give authors that.
I'm not really very affected by it myself (because I only publish finished stories and a finished story is what it is regardless of complaints), but even I can find it exhausting to page through, so don't put that on the shoulders of people whose mental and emotional burdens you have no knowledge of.
If you absolutely have to leave criticism? Become a beta-reader, and make that criticism known before the author publishes their story. Reviews and comments are not the place for it.