Chapter One: Give us your children
The rain was coming down in sheets, and it soaked through her shoes as she ran, trying to gain the shelter of her apartment building lobby before getting thoroughly soaked.
She was about to cross the last street as a large, dark car sped by, sending up a column of water that proceeded to hit her full on. Becoming thoroughly soaked was no longer an issue, or rather, avoiding becoming thoroughly soaked. She couldn't be more wet if she were at the bottom of a pool.
"I bloody hate London!" she yelled at the rear lights of the expensive car as it drove away, then, resigned, walked across the street and into the lobby of her building. There was no longer any reason to run.
She found herself almost at the elevators before she became aware of the figures approaching her. Still, she wasn't nervous, exactly. She was, after all, in the well-lit lobby of an exceptionally busy apartment complex.
But the doorman was nowhere to be seen. Which was, in itself, strange....
"Miss Kennedy? May we have a word?" One of the figures spoke. She turned, in surprise. How had they known her name?
"Yes?" she asked in her firmest voice. She had never been one to be intimidated. By anyone.
There were three of them. Two large and one smaller...well, two men and one woman, she assumed. They all wore hooded cloaks.
"What can I do for you? And how do you know my name?"
"You are Maura Kennedy, aren't you?"
"You're a reporter? You work for a news service?"
"Yes?" she was losing patience. The man, she assumed it was a man, raised his hands and removed his hood. She saw a head of bright red hair before she looked at the other two. They, too removed their hoods. One was a very large, very imposing black man – the other had....
Shocking pink hair?
"Who are you?"
"My name's..." The pink haired woman began, stepping forward.
"Our names are unimportant right now," the red haired man cut her off. "Miss Kennedy, we need you to come with us..."
"Not bloody likely!" she said sarcastically. "I don't even know who the hell you are. Until you give me your names and a darned good reason, I won't be going anywhere."
"Miss Kennedy...it really is very important that we speak with you..." The black man smiled. "I promise you, there is nothing....underhanded....going on here. I would ask you to trust us."
"Why do you want to speak to me?"
"Well, it's not us, exactly," the red-haired man spoke again. "We have come to take you to someone who needs to speak with you."
"Because you have a talent that we need. You are Maura Kennedy, the foreign correspondent who has been reporting from the middle east for the past six months, writing for a mug...for the news service, yes?"
"Yes." She was beginning to get it now. For four years, on and off, she'd been writing stories from the increasingly tense environment of Riyadh. She'd been the observer in many conflicts between American and British troops and the insurgents there. These...people...in their odd cloaks and odder mannerisms, were obviously representing a faction that she had perhaps been less than complimentary to in her writing. She automatically reached into her bag for her can of pepper spray.
"I'm warning you...."
"Miss Kennedy," the black man spoke. "You really have nothing to fear. We're on the side of the good guys. We would like you to come to speak to our...superior. There is nothing to fear, really."
"And just who is your 'superior'?" She asked cuttingly, not letting go of the can in her bag, but not pulling it out, either. She noticed the red-haired man and the woman with the hot pink hair had their hands concealed in their cloaks...were they armed?
Don't be stupid! She thought, Of course they're armed!
"Can I at least go and put on some dry clothes?" She asked, not quite sure why she was even considering going with them.
"That can be taken care of...." the woman of the hot pink hair laid a hand on her arm and smiled, and Maura immediately felt a tug behind her navel that almost made her want to vomit.
Of course, she didn't. She was too busy fainting.
"I told you not to use it until she was ready!"
"She said she'd come!"
"She didn't...she asked if she could go and change her clothes."
"Suggesting that after she did that, she would come!"
"Did she actually say the words 'I'll come'?"
"Ron, how many times do I have to tell you...."
"Stuff it, okay, Nymph? I...."
"Oh, God...." Maura worked her head around, trying to work out a monster kink in the muscles of her neck. She felt like she'd been on a three day bender...where the hell was she, anyhow?
She opened her eyes to find herself staring blearily at four people. The red head was there, looking down at her, and the woman with the day-glo hair...and the black man stood off to the side, in front of a door.
And there was another. A man with dark, dark hair and the most amazing eyes....so incredibly green. He was looking down at her with a look of concern.
"Where the hell am I?" She tried to sit, finding herself on a plush leather sofa in a very Victorian-looking room. The walls were a deep red, and the draperies were a deep wine color. All of the furniture looked incredibly expensive, all dark wood and plush upholstery. There was a fire burning in the biggest fireplace she'd ever seen. A person would be able to stand upright inside it.
"Where the hell am I?" she demanded.
"You're in my home, and the headquarters of our...organization," the green-eyed man said calmly. "I apologise for the...abrupt...manner in which my friends brought you here. I hope you will allow me to explain the urgency."
"You're darned right you'll be explaining, Mister!" Maura flung her legs over the side of the couch, sitting up. "Who the hell are you people?"
The four exchanged glances. The black-haired, green-eyed man stepped forward, holding out his hand to be shaken.
"I'm sorry," he said. "Allow me to introduce myself. My name, Miss Kennedy, is Harry Potter."
"You, sir, are out of your tree," she scooted back on the couch, away from him. "Harry Potter is a character in a series of children's fantasy books written by a very talented but, in my humble opinion, slightly odd woman from Exeter."
To her amazement, he smiled. It was a genuine smile, even if it didn't reach his eyes.
"Ah, yes. The books. I should have known you'd have heard of them."
Heard of them? She thought. She had inhaled them. J. K. Rowling had to be one of the most talented writers of fantasy fiction she'd ever encountered. She'd even considered changing her career after being so affected by the books...
"And you're older than he is. Harry Potter is supposed to be a kid...."
"Well, I assure you, I didn't spring, fully grown, from an egg." This time the smile did reach his eyes, but there was something very sad about it. "I assure you, Miss Kennedy, I am, indeed, Harry Potter."
"Prove it." She demanded, ignoring the obvious mirth of the other three in the room. Apparently, this was something he wasn't normally asked to do.
"I'm afraid that I don't have any...documentation. Birth certificates are not quite as necessary in my world as they are in yours. However..." he raised his hand as if to run it through his hair, "...will this do?"
As he lifted the shaggy fringe, she looked to see a very clear scar, the shape of a lightning bolt, jaggedly scarring the skin of his forehead. In the books, it had been described as a thin line...this was something else altogether. The nasty, ragged mark was very noticable...and very real. Scars like that, Maura knew, were not easily faked.
Maura looked at it in stunned disbelief, then took her eyes from it to look around the room. Sure enough, she now noticed details. There was a large crest above the fireplace. It was a golden griffin, surrounded by a shield and crossed swords. In the corner stood a birdcage...in the was the most beautiful white owl Maura had ever seen.
"What do you want from me?" she croaked, her eyes going back to him. "Why have you brought me here?"
He looked at her for a moment, realizing from her stunned perusal of the room that she had accepted, at least in part, that they were who they said they were. He nodded. It was never easy for a muggle to understand.
"You are a writer, Miss Kennedy. A very talented reporter. An authority on the current...conflict...in the middle east. I...we...need your talents."
"What on earth for?"
"To expose the magical world...so that we can join forces and defeat the Dark Power that is currently rising. Alone, neither my world nor yours stands a chance. Together, we may yet be victorious."
And for the second time that day, Maura Kennedy did something she'd never before that day done in her life. She fainted.
"Bloody hell, Harry! Are you sure we got the right ruddy bird? She doesn't seem to be the type to stand up under the pressure in a war zone....she's fainted twice in the past hour!"
Harry smiled as he guided the wiry blond woman's limp body back down onto the couch. Ron had reined in his impetuosity over the years, but he was still colorful in his language.
"It's her, Ron. Trust me, being made aware of the magical world the first time can be a bit of a shock."
"So what now?" Nymphadora Tonks was seated on Harry's very large, very imposing desk in the corner, swinging her legs back and forth as she popped bubblegum the same shade as her hair. "Do you want to keep her here, or do we take advantage of this to take her back where she belongs?"
"Tonks," Harry rubbed his eyes. It was hard to look at her and not get a headache. She, too, was very colorful. In a totally different way than Ron. "Do you think you could do something about..."
"Sure, Harry." Tonks screwed up her face for a minute, then opened her eyes again as her hair grew three inches and turned a deep shade of brown.
"Thanks," he smiled. "Now, do you think you could go and get Ginny? Tell her to bring some Pepper-Up potion with her, if you would?"
"And she might bring a bottle of Firewhiskey, too," grumbled Ron as he sat down heavily in one of the leather upholstered chairs facing the fireplace.
Harry smiled again as he gazed down at the woman lying prone on his sofa and shook his head. This was going to be a lot more difficult than he originally thought. A lot more.
Maura surfaced to more voices. This time, she could hear the red head...Ron they had called him. The large, older, black man...well...she didn't know who he was. He didn't say much. The brightly colored woman must be Nymphadora Tonks...the young auror that was purported to be so clumsy....funny, she hadn't seemed clumsy.
And the black haired, green eyed man...Harry Potter. Really, truly, Harry Potter! She swallowed, then began to open her eyes.
"Shut it, you lot! She's coming around."
A new voice. Soft, feminine, but strong. Maura opened her eyes to see a blur of red before she winced and blinked, clearing her vision.
Once again, she was prone on the sofa, and this time, she looked up into a pair of very soft, concerned brown eyes.
"There, now...don't move too quickly," she said, putting a restraining hand on Maura's shoulder to hold her still. "Take a minute to get your bearings."
"Who are you?"
The young woman smiled. "I'm Ginny. Relax, it'll be fine in a minute. Anything hurt?"
"No..." Maura shook her head. "I just passed out...."
"No doubt as an effect of these bumbling idiots tactlessness. Forgive them, they're rather distracted with trying to save the world and all." Ginny grinned.
Maura immediately knew that she liked the other woman.
"Thank you," she said, sitting up. "I'm fine."
"Ginny, perhaps some Pepper-Up..." Harry started.
"Don't be daft, Harry! Giving potions to muggles without knowing their resistance level is about as smart as poking a twitchy auror with a stick. A shot of that muggle brandy that you keep hidden in the bottom drawer would probably do her as much good as anything I could give her."
Harry immediately moved behind the large desk in the corner and took out a bottle of amber liquid. He poured a generous shot into a crystal glass on the desktop and then brought it across to them, handing it to Maura.
Maura drank, surprised to find that it was a very smooth, obviously very expensive brandy. She lowered the glass, then took a deep breath.
"I have some questions, Mr Potter."
Harry grinned, "No doubt you do, Miss Kennedy. And I'll be happy to answer as many of them as I can, but I need to make a few things clear to you before we proceed, if I may?"
"Of course," she nodded.
"The world that you have read about, the magical world that is in the books about my...escapades at Hogwarts...are only based on fact. Many of the details are...pure fantasy. You do understand that?"
She nodded once.
"Many of the things that the author wrote about are...interpretations...of the real events."
This was met with a snort from Ron.
Ron. Ron Weasley... Maura turned shocked eyes on him, only just realizing who he was.
"You....you're Ron Weasley...."
"Yes," he nodded, looking directly at her, his blue eyes twinkling. "But I'm not nearly the git that I was made out to be in the books."
At this, Nymphadora Tonks snorted, then went back to swinging her feet from the corner of the desk.
She turned to find Harry watching her closely. He looked to be about thirty five years old. He had the messy black hair, and the deep emerald eyes...but he didn't wear glasses, and he certainly didn't bear much resemblance to the scrawny kid he had been described as. He was, she thought, close to six foot two or three...very tall and quite broad about the shoulders. He wore a grey tshirt and a pair of well-worn jeans. No wizard robe in sight.
"The books were, as you said, a story...a fantasy story written for children. I don't know how much you know about the author of those books...."
"Only what I've read in interviews," she said softly.
"Yes. In one particular interview, she mentioned that the character of Harry Potter just walked into her mind, fully formed, while she was on a train journey...."
"Yes, I've read that."
"What she didn't mention, actually, what she didn't know, was the manner in which the character was presented to her. The headmaster at Hogwarts was also on that train. He felt it was time that someone wrote my story...and presented it to her...through..." he took a deep breath, "...well, through what you would call mental telepathy."
"Yes. Albus Dumbledore," Harry smiled. "This was back in 1990. While the books are presented as my graduating from Hogwarts in 1997, I actually graduated ten years prior to that, in 1987."
"And how much of the story is true?"
"Well..." Harry smiled again. "Lets just say that most of the major events are correct in theory."
"What does that mean?"
"Miss Kennedy, I don't have the books in front of me to tell you item by item what is fact and what is...artistic license. Suffice to say that the basic elements of the tale are there. The author was given the story as Albus knew it...and as any good author with an idea would do, she elaborated on the main facts to make a marketable, entertaining story."
"Did you kill Voldemort?"
Harry stilled, then took a deep breath. "Yes. I did."
"So you abolished the Dark Lord. You were the victor. What do you need me for?"
"You believe that there is only one source of evil in the world, Miss Kennedy?"
"You mean that there is another...?"
"There is always another," he confirmed. "There is always one more to take the place of the one defeated. Trust me on this."
"And this one?"
"No worse has been seen since...well. Perhaps you remember in the books that my...mentor, Dumbledore, defeated his own Dark Lord some sixty years ago."
"Grindewald, yes." She confirmed.
"Your world knew him as Adolf Hitler." Harry nodded. "Voldemort never reached that level of power. He was capable, it just hadn't occurred to him to try to overcome the...forgive me...muggle world concurrently with his attempted takeover of the magical world. Had it occurred to him, it might have been a much harder struggle to overcome him. However, the latest rising of a Dark Lord has come in a form that both our worlds must take note of. Another has come in a long line of Dark Wizards, who would overtake not only our world, but yours, as well."
"Who?" she asked faintly.
"We don't know his name. But we know a few things about him...."
"He is from the middle east, and he practices a Dark Magic that even our world has been unable to comprehend. Many of the so-called 'terrorist' attacks in recent years have an unmistakable magical signature."
His emerald eyes glinted as he stared deeply into her blue ones.
"The magical world is frightened, Miss Kennedy. Very, very frightened. We do not know if we are strong enough to overcome this threat. And this time, they threat is not just to us. Your world, too, is involved."
"What does this mean?"
"It means that not since 1939 have we seen a threat such as this to both our worlds. That time, our people banded together to overcome. Albus Dumbledore could not have overcome Grindewald without assistance from both wizards and non-magical people. Since that time, your world has lived in relative peace. However, we now face a similar threat, and this time, we have no name or face for the Dark Lord. At least, not yet."
He hesitated, and she suddenly knew that he had his own suspicions.
"What do you need me for?"
"To assist in uniting our worlds. You must be the key, the connection, the liaison, if you will, which allows us to communicate and form alliances with the non-magical world. You must help us to convince others of your kind to band together with that that they have no concept of...that they believe merely children's fairytales and fantasy fiction."
He paused, looking directly into her eyes. His were incredibly sad, but hopeful.
"You must convince them to give us their children."