Author's Note: Thanks, everybody, for your reviews!
Crumpets Aren't My Style
Ron Weasley checked his watch and then looked up at the colorless overcast sky. He still didn't believe it, not truly. Bill and Charlie had written him long letters of assurance, but he couldn't work up the energy to hope. He tried to be patient for Hermione's sake. She seemed to believe almost everything now, every strange rumor, every bit of gossip. She even made him read a Quibbler article about muggles battling the Dark Lord on the Moon.
It wasn't that he had never hoped that they'd see Harry again. When Harry had been declared dead by the Ministry almost a year earlier, Ron found himself watching the door of the boys' dormitory, half expecting his best friend for the past six years to walk through. But he'd used up most of his faith since then. Three weeks before, they had gone through the same thing. They were allowed out of class and had waited with Acting Headmistress McGonagall for three hours, and nothing had happened. The Headmistress had forwarded them an apology that she claimed was from Harry. It mentioned imminent galactic destruction. Even Hermione had found it a little hard to swallow.
"They still have three minutes," Hermione said.
Ron grunted and shifted around on the cold castle steps.
"What was that?" Hermione asked.
"Didn't you feel that?" she asked.
"No," said Ron.
"Are you sure?" she asked. "It was like-"
A bright white flash of light interrupted her.
"-electricity," she mumbled.
As the spots faded from their eyes, two figures resolved into being at the foot of the steps. A tall, gray haired man with an angular but very relaxed face stood holding a blue flattop circular hat that went with his dark blue muggle suit. Both hat and suit were decorated with bits of shiny metal and colored squares. He was wearing reflective sunglasses and a faintly amused expression. Next to him was a dark haired young man with buzz-cut and tan. The younger man's clothes were dark green and very plain compared to his companion's. The only thing slightly odd about him was the black fingerless gloves he was wearing. Ron's eyes rested on the younger stranger for a moment. He could have sworn he'd seen him somewhere before.
"Harry!" Hermione shrieked, jumping to her feet and rushing down the steps.
"What?" Ron asked, standing unsteadily and following her at a more cautious pace.
The man in green looked a bit like Harry. He had a similar face, Ron supposed, but everything else about him was wrong. Harry always stood slightly bent, as if he thought he could avoid stares by making himself smaller. Harry was skinny, pale, and short. The young man at the bottom of the steps was sporting a build closer to Charlie's, and stood with a pronounced confidence that seemed to imply that he was ready at any moment to challenge all comers to a pushup contest. It can't be.
The man in blue stepped agilely out of the way as Hermione caught the man in green in a very off-balanced hug.
"Hey, Ron," said the man in green in a voice that was a little too deep, but definitely Harry's.
"Hey," Ron responded lamely. "Content lenses?" Ron asked, waving at Harry's face.
"Contact," Hermione corrected absently.
Harry shook his head. "No, no lenses."
"Then why aren't you wearing your glasses?" Ron asked.
"Ron!" Hermione chided.
They stood about looking at each other. Harry had gotten a little taller then Hermione, even counting her hair.
"So…" Ron started.
He was saved from another awkward conversation starter by the man in the blue suit clearing his throat.
"Oh, right," said Harry. "This is General Jack O'Neill, two L's, current commander of the Earth Defense Force. Sir, this is Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. "
"Pleasure to meet you, sir," said Hermione, formally.
"Back at ya," the General replied.
They paused for another awkward moment.
"So this wizard school," O'Neill said looking up at the castle. "I thought it would look magical-er."
Hermione and Ron exchanged confused looks.
"General O'Neill!" called McGonagall as she swept out of the castle and down the steps.
"Headmistress," he replied, shaking her hand. "Sorry we had to cancel last time. There was a couple hundred you-know-whats you-know-where trying to destroy…uh…you know."
"I know," McGonagall replied.
Ron and Hermione exchanged even more confused looks. McGonagall reached into her pocket and pulled out a vial of glowing green liquid.
"This should improve the view," she said, putting it in O'Neill's hand.
He looked at the little glass tube.
"So are these eye-drops, ingested, injected, topical…I fear further options here…"
"You drink it, General."
O'Neill gulped the vial, looked up at the castle again and said "oh!" It took Ron a minute to recall that muggles only saw ruins when they looked at the castle to keep them from wandering too close. McGonagall clapped her hands together.
"Now that that's settled, General, I'd like to go over the agenda before the Ministry's representatives get here. I'm certain Mr. Potter is eager to be caught up on Quidditch scores and the like."
With a well-practiced shooing motion she sent the three teenagers back into the castle. Ron looked back in time to see her take O'Neill's outstretched arm, and lead him up the steps.
They strolled passed the "Great Hall" as McGonagall named it. Girls in black robes were running in and out. A few had their wands out and were shooting sparks at each other, but a raised eyebrow from McGonagall froze them in their tracks. The momentary look of horror on their faces morphed into knowing grins. They turned and ran off giggling, and O'Neill was sure he heard the words "McGonagall's boyfriend" as they reentered the hall. Bre'tac would be so jealous.
There was a large staircase at the end of the entrance hall, and just to the right of it was a statue. Or what O'Neill at first thought was a statue.
"Researchers from the department of Mysteries come in every few days to look him over and run tests. They wanted to keep him there, but I know this is where he wants to be," McGonagall explained. "We're expecting a breakthrough any day now."
A half dozen Weasleys had taken the section of wall from Ba'al's ship two months ago. O'Neill had been wondering what they did with it. The extra layers of bulkhead from the Goa'uld ship had been stripped away to reveal an aged face, frozen in its last moments. Dumbledore stood with one hand reaching forward and the other pointed at the floor. He looked utterly calm. They continued up past him.
"We'll be holding the meeting in the Headmaster's office," McGonagall said at the top of yet another staircase.
"Ever considered putting in an escalator?" O'Neill asked.
"I shudder to think about what would happen to the children if we did. You wouldn't believe how much candy they eat."
Three staircases later they got to the office in question. McGonagall called out "ice mice" and a stone gargoyle stepped aside as they approached. It beat swiping a finicky plastic card, he supposed. They started up another set of stairs, but to O'Neill's relief the staircase started to move itself upwards. Almost every inch of wall space in McGonagall's office was covered with portraits, and they all seemed to be moving. O'Neill tried to play it cool as the painted people turned toward him and started to talk. There were moving paintings in the halls too, but they didn't seem to be paying so much attention to passersby. McGonagall seated herself behind her desk and O'Neill took the seat in front of it.
A strange little biped dressed in a tea-towel toga, was suddenly standing a few feet away from him. It looked at him with eyes like bulging tennis balls.
"Hey," O'Neill said.
"I'm sorry!" wailed the creature.
"You've nothing to apologize for, Minty," McGonagall said.
"Minty did not know there was a muggle here! Please do not send Minty to the Ministry."
"Don't upset yourself," McGonagall ordered. "Tell me why you're here."
"Minty wanted to check the menu for tea. Headmistress had said she would tell Minty this morning, but Minty has failed to acquire this information."
"I apologize, Minty. I forgot to stop by the kitchens this morning. Tea service for ten, Earl grey, and an assortment of biscuits will be fine."
"But Headmistress, they are Ministry representatives-"
"You're right, Minty. Skip the biscuits," McGonagall amended.
The creature's ears quivered but it nodded and disappeared with another pop.
"Was that a…goblin?" O'Neill asked.
"House elf, actually."
McGonagall waved her wand and several rolls of parchment appeared. O'Neill browsed through them. The Ministry had sent him somewhat similar documents, but McGonagall's copies were much more interesting. They made quite a few references to the muggle problem and even suggested a few solutions which involved raiding the SGC, despite it being in the North American Wizard Council's jurisdiction.
"This looks less then promising," O'Neill admitted.
"The question is, what are we going to do about it? The Ministry is right in some regards. While Dumbledore was a member of the Wizengamot, I have never held a place in our government. I can advise you, but I have no authority to help."
"We can always call up the Asgard," O'Neill said.
"The Norse Pantheon? You have ancient gods on your side now?"
"Yeah, me and Thor are like that," O'Neill said holding up crossed fingers.
"So you call upon them and Gods will simply appear and stun the Ministry with their towering glory?"
"Well…probably not that. They're shorter than you might think. They gave us that cool beaming technology, though."
McGonagall nodded. She opened the drawer of her desk and pulled out several stacks of books.
"Our situation is not entirely unprecedented. You may wish to look over these."
O'Neill opened one of them. The binding started to crumble and a cloud of dust rose up around his face.
"Where's Daniel when you need him?"
Harry was used to looks; stares at "the boy who lived," but now things were different. He could tell that most of them didn't even recognize him. He heard whispers of "who's the muggle?" now. He didn't know if he liked that better or not. He took the stairs up to the astronomy tower. The sun was just setting, so the classes wouldn't arrive for at least an hour and a half. Hermione and Ron followed silently behind him. He'd seen them exchanging looks, and he could almost hear them thinking. "Is it him? Is he the same?" He was glad they hadn't asked him. He wasn't.
"It will only take one more second Harry. Sit tight."
The machine let out a series of startling bangs, as if someone were pounding on the outside with a hammer.
"One more second, Harry. Damn! Fifty percent function."
"Is that bad?" Harry called.
"You're leaning on the talk-button, sir."
"Does that mean my brain is only half-working?" Harry called out in panic. He did a quick check; multiplication tables, 12 times 3, thirty-six, still there, Hedwig is my owl. Elizabeth is the Queen. He couldn't find anything missing. The machine buzzed and the table Harry was lying on slid out. He blinked as nurses peeled electrodes off his head.
O'Neill and Dr. Brightman were walking into the room.
"Did you say my brain was only half working?" Harry repeated.
"No," Dr. Brightman said. "10 is the norm for a human. 50 of your brain is currently active." The doctor paused and looked at O'Neill. He nodded. "The areas of excess stimulation correspond to those accessed by a Goa'uld when it is interacting with its host. Usually they return to normal after the parasite has been removed; in your case, that hasn't happened. There is also anomalous activity in your long-term memory centers."
"But there aren't any…pieces of that thing still in there, right?"
"No, all the remaining tissue has been absorbed," Brightman said.
"I told you not to use the "A" word," O'Neill hissed.
They moved out onto the roof of the Astronomy tower. Harry went to the edge and leaned his back against the parapet. He felt the cold wind fly up his back. His hair was too short to be ruffled by it. It only stood up, unquiet.
"So where've you been? Really?" Ron asked.
The elevator took twenty minutes to reach the surface. He could feel the mountain pressing in on him. He'd never felt claustrophobic before. Of course he'd never spent a month without seeing the sun before.
"Where are we going?" Harry asked.
"Area 51," Colonel Carter said.
"But where is it?"
"That's classified," she said, smiling.
"So's this," Harry said smiling back.
They reached the surface and Harry couldn't help but bask in the sun until Carter caught his sleeve and tugged him along. They climbed into a black SUV and drove. Harry had sworn he wouldn't miss even a second of open sky, but he fell asleep after only a couple of hours. He woke again as they rolled through another security gate. They climbed out of the car and were searched and given scrubs to wear.
"Is this it?" Harry asked, as they got into another elevator, going down of course.
"Yep, this is the UFO factory."
"Harry? Hello! You still here mate?" Ron asked.
"Oh yeah, Sorry. It's just strange being back, you know? It's almost like I never left."
"Almost," Hermione said with a hint of a smile. "Except for the clothes, that awful hair cut, and the fact that you've picked up a bit of an accent in the states."
"I haven't!" Harry objected.
"Soon you'll be asking us to 'chill dude'," Hermione continued in a very atrocious American accent.
For a few minutes they teased him while Harry tried to recover his mastery of the British language. Hermione finally kicked the topic back in front of them.
"Harry, where have you been?"
"I've been…I've been all over the place. I was in Colorado a lot of the time, before and after."
"Before and after what?" Hermione asked.
"Before and after I went off-world."
"Off-world?" Ron asked.
"As in on another world?" Ron pressed.
Harry nodded again.
"So you really were on the moon?" Hermione asked.
"On the way back…yeah," Harry said.
"That doesn't make any sense," Ron said. "How'd you get there?"
"Spaceship," Harry said. "I can't go into details, though. It's classified."
"A real spaceship?" Hermione asked. "One of the NASA shuttles? I thought they were temporarily out of commission-"
"It wasn't one of the spaceships humans made," Harry said.
Ron looked a bit stumped by that. "Who made it then? Goblins?"
"It wasn't made by anyone from Earth," Harry said.
He looked up and his friends looked up too. A few early stars were blinking in the navy-blue sky.
"Harry…" Hermione said. "There's no such thing. I mean, are you sure it wasn't some sort of trick?"
"I'll prove it," Harry said. "Come here."
They did and he put a hand on each of their shoulders. There was a blinding flash of light.
"I suppose we'll have to discuss Mr. Potter now," McGonagall said.
O'Neill shifted in his seat, and pushed the books away with relief.
"We still aren't entirely sure how Harry is," he started. "He says he's fine. He tells the psych people he's fine, but he's still sleepwalking. He'll turn up in a hall in his pajamas with no idea how he got there. He'll start speaking Goa'uld and not realize he's doing it. He has much more access to Ba'al's memories then he should. Carter had a symbiote in her head almost as long and all she gets are a few random words and images. Harry can draw up engineering diagrams and explain the physics behind their shield generators. He can read their writing. We can't do much besides watch him at this point."
"I've had Professor Snape researching options. There are personality suppression potions, but they've really only been used on the severely mentally deranged. We might resort to obliviation, but that spell is not as exact as one might wish for."
"We haven't turned up any plans for world domination in his footlocker," O'Neill said. "That's always a plus."
"I think it's time Harry returned to school," McGonagall said.
"He's this close with the specs for the satellite defense system, though," O'Neill objected weakly.
"He is still a child, General. He will not have a second chance to be one after your projects are finished."
"I know. Though if the kid agrees to it, we'd like to borrow him one weekend a month and two weeks a year. He can earn money for college."
McGonagall snorted into her tea. "I do believe I read that on a poster in your office. The final decision will be up to him of course, but I'm hoping you won't pressure him too much."
O'Neill leaned forward conspiratorially. "To be honest, we're all getting a little frustrated with moody teenager moments. I don't know how you deal with it."
"I can give them detention," she said.
"I can have them shot," O'Neill said. "It doesn't seem to help."
The elf was back.
"Minty is sorry for interrupting, Headmistress, but the Minister of Magic is here and Minty was not told he was coming so Minty must rearrange the chairs. Minty is sorry!"
"Don't upset yourself, Minty," McGonagall said, trying to hide her own annoyance. "I didn't know he was coming either."
O'Neill started to get up, but McGonagall waved him back into his seat. She swept out of the office, leaving O'Neill alone with the creepy moving pictures, the creepy books of wizard law, and the creepy elf.
"So…" O'Neill said, "You work here?"
The elf squeaked and disappeared. A minute later it was back with more chairs. It took a half an hour for the headmistress to return. O'Neill couldn't say that he thought much of the people she had in tow. They didn't walk in like they owned the place, at least. They looked as if they owned the house across the street and wanted the place bulldozed so as to clear the view, but they seemed well aware that it wasn't theirs.
The first guy was grizzled and hairy and looked as if he'd be just as comfortable in a caveman get up as he was in his judge-like robes. O'Neill half expected a greeting of "Ug! Ug smash!" but a greeting was expecting too much. Without looking at him, the caveman sat down. After the caveman was a tall red-haired kid, who might have been a Weasley except that he looked as if he had a stick up his…sleeve. He was followed by a short fat woman with too many teeth and a spare tire under her pink cardigan. No wonder McGonagall canceled the biscuits. Then came a short balding man who seemed to have polished his head for the occasion, and finally four tall men in blue robes, whom the Minister must have picked up at goon-mart on his way to the meeting.
Everyone but the blue robes and McGonagall sat without invitation. The blue robes stood around the room. One was trying to stare threateningly at O'Neill. The General pulled down his reflective sunglasses just enough to meet the man's eyes. O'Neill gave him the look he usually only gave someone from the other end of a sniper rifle. The ministry goon looked away. McGonagall tapped her wand on her desk and suddenly there was a long oval table in the middle of the room, around which they were already seated. She went to the chair at the end, and O'Neill stood up until she was seated again.
McGonagall opened her mouth to speak, but the caveman whom O'Neill guessed was the Minister beat her to it.
"Secure the room," he ordered.
The goons in blue robes ran about waving their wands. O'Neill supposed they were carrying out their orders. They stood back and the lead goon nodded to the Minister.
"Now, no one is coming and no one is leaving until this is sorted out," the cave-minister declared.
"Actually my diplomatic expert's been delayed," O'Neill said.
"And you expect us to compromise our security to let him in?" the redhead sneered.
"No," O'Neill said. "The wand waving doesn't really bother us. I just didn't want to startle anyone. There might be heart conditions in the group."
The redhead started to say something else, but McGonagall interceded.
"This will be conducted in a civil manner," she said.
O'Neill considered most anything short of the discharge of firearms to be civil, but he understood the need to keep order.
"You hardly have a say in these matters," the fat lady in the pink sweater said in a fake little girl voice.
The room seemed to grow darker. McGonagall stood. "I am Headmistress of this school, and you would do well to remember that the castle does not take kindly to pretenders, Umbridge."
Umbridge opened her mouth to speak, but there was a distinct rumble from the floor beneath their feet. The magical folk looked around nervously.
"So…" O'Neill interrupted "how about that treaty?"
"Hey Harry!" said a very nondescript man in the blue uniform, as the three teenagers stepped off the platform.
"Hey Sergeant Belerman," Harry replied cheerfully.
Ron's mouth was hanging wide open. "We didn't…we were…that wasn't Apparating."
"Nope," Harry said. "That was good old fashion extraterrestrial technology."
"You're sounding American again," Hermione said absently as she walked towards a glowing panel on the wall.
"General O'Neill said I could show you guys around if you'll sign confidentiality agreements," Harry said, digging through his pockets. "And I really hope you will, because I was supposed to have them signed before we got up here."
Ron's mouth was still hanging slightly open as he scrawled his name across the page. Hermione signed hers without looking. Her name was sideways across the sign-here line, but Harry thought that was close enough. He stuffed the paper back in his pocket.
"Don't touch that, Miss!" Belerman called.
Harry looked over and saw Hermione had her hand on a data integration port. He caught her arm and steered her and Ron away down the hall. They went through several airlocks, dodging crewmembers who looked like they were going somewhere important.
"So we're in space now?" Ron asked as they passed through a cargo bay.
"Where are we going, Harry?" Hermione asked.
"The launch bay," he said.
"The launch bay?" Ron asked.
Harry nodded again. "We've got the new X6 on board. They're doing a test launch at 0100, that's in about fifteen minutes. It's classified, of course, but it is definitely worth seeing."
The launch bay was crowded with men and women in blue jumpsuits and one guy in a funny formfitting suit with a helmet on. They were all running around a little silver airplane with wings that went out to the side and then curved back up over the body of the craft, like a man holding his arms over his head.
"Is that machine really going to fly?" Ron asked.
"That's the plan," one of the men in blue jumpsuits said as he came up to them. "Harry, could you look over the engine control relay one more time? We're getting some weird interference on the E.M. stabilizers and the Naquadah reintegration module is rattling whenever we fire it up past 15."
The man said all of this in one continuous breath. He smiled and nodded at Ron and Hermione, then went back to staring at Harry.
"I could take a look at it. The module probably just needs to be re-centered in the housing. I don't know about the stabilizer, though. It checked out on the ground. It might be the sho mel atck'seem warn toe shal em und tee'ro mal kec art…"
"English please," said the man in the blue jumpsuit politely.
"Right. Sorry, Mike. It might be the…internal field generator interacting with the external wave variance that we used to cancel out the continual acceleration of the ion streams. I'll need to see the interference patterns."
"Sure thing," Mike said, pulling a little plastic rectangle out of his pocket and handing it to Harry.
It had little moving bars on it that Ron couldn't make heads or tails of. He and Hermione exchanged looks. She shrugged as well.
"Can we boost power to the internal field?" Harry asked.
"They're maxed out."
"I can't tell for sure unless we take the whole thing apart. The E.M. isn't messing up the other control systems, is it?"
"No, but it's making us nervous."
"Like I said, to figure it out I'd have to take the whole thing apart, but even if the stabilizer does conk out, the ship won't blow up. We'll just lose the com system and the sensor package. Major Miller should still be able to pilot back here without any problem."
"I'll pass that on to Captain Williams. Thanks. Dr. Jackson is saving you seats in front of port twelve. Better hurry up. He's fighting with some Russian ambassador over them."
"I thought Americans and Russians didn't like each other. Aren't they having a frost war or something like that?" Ron asked as they crossed to a linked corridor.
"A cold war, Ron," Hermione said. "And it's been over for nearly a decade."
They stepped through another airlock, into a room with a window. Ron and Hermione immediately ran to it. The Earth was turning slowly beneath them, the size of a basketball from their vantage point. The marble-sized moon was visible, too.
"This is unbelievable!" Hermione said.
"Please don't put your hands on the glass, Miss," asked yet another man in a blue jumpsuit.
Hermione stepped back from the window. Harry waved her and Ron over to the row of chairs bolted to the wall about a meter off the floor. They had harnesses on them. Three of the seats were already occupied, one by a man in a blue jumpsuit, one by man in a Russian military uniform and one by a man in a business suit and glasses. The man with the glasses looked as if he were about to sneeze.
"Hey, Doctor Jackson," Harry said.
"Hey, Harry," the man with the glasses replied. "This is Colonel Malkoloft, and you already know Lt. Angara," he said, nodding to the Russian and the man in the jumpsuit.
Harry shook the Russian Colonel's hand. "Good to finally meet you," the Russian said. "You have a last name, I suppose?"
"Not with me," Harry replied.
The Russian snorted. Harry didn't introduce Hermione or Ron. Instead he waved them over to chairs. Hermione had to be boosted into hers. As they strapped in, Ron pointed out the red digital countdown on the wall above the door.
"It's so nobody runs into the bay right before they lose the atmosphere," Harry explained.
The countdown hit zero and the floor and walls rattled. Through the window they saw the little silver craft dart out into the void. It vanished almost instantly into the distance.
"Why did we tie ourselves to chairs?" Ron asked.
"One second," Harry said.
Ron started to say something to Hermione but his mouth clicked shut as the floor tilted. The people in blue jumpsuits just leaned into the turn, but Ron was willing to admit, to himself at least, that he probably would have gone flying.
"The gravity generators can't compensate rapidly enough when you combine sharp turns with acceleration like we just did," Harry supplied. "We're going to play tag with the X6 to see how well it maneuvers, and to make sure we're nearby if something goes wrong."
The Hogwarts students nodded uncomprehendingly. The ship continued to tilt and tip and the pattern of stars outside the window changed. They had only brief glimpses of the little silver ship, though. Ron didn't think it was nearly as exciting as riding on a broom, though he couldn't stop his mouth from dropping open as they circled the dark side of the moon. The silver ship eventually passed their window again on its way back into the launch bay. Ron checked his watch. They'd been in space an entire hour. Thinking about it made his head feel rather empty.
Harry helped them escape their safety harnesses and they headed back to the room they had beamed into. It took Ron a minute to realize the man in the glasses, Jackson, was walking behind them. Harry shooed them up onto the platform, and a flash of light later they were standing on the lawn outside he castle.
"That was…interesting," Hermione finally managed to say.
O'Neill dropped another cube of sugar into his tea, and wished strongly for a zat gun. The Ministry representatives were arguing with each other more than with him.
"We need to obliviate them before this goes any further!" the redhead, who in fact was a Weasley, said.
Maybe a staff weapon, O'Neill thought, or a Goa'uld grenade.
"It's left the galaxy already," O'Neill interrupted boredly as he scribbled on his notepad. "It's a little outside your reach."
"You'd be surprised how far our reach extends," The Minister of Magic said ominously.
O'Neill wondered if it would be interpreted as an assassination attempt if he threw his hat at the wizards' head of state. Only if I hit him in the eye, he concluded.
"We were talking about the treaty, weren't we?" O'Neill asked.
The balding man with the polished head, Undersecretary Mulford, interrupted with something that was at least vaguely logical. "The agreements you've made with Hogwarts staff, no matter their prominence, are not valid in our government. School teachers do not have the authority to make agreements on behalf of the entire wizarding world."
"So you want to go to war?" O'Neill asked.
"The treaties signed were non-aggression and confidentiality agreements. Well, you all don't seem to want the rest of the 'muggle' world to know about you, and the only other thing on that paper is the non-aggression agreement. We aren't left with many options, are we?"
"We do not wish to go to war!" The Minister said.
"So what's the problem, then?" O'Neill asked.
"Dumbledore and McGonagall are not members of the government!" Mulford said.
"So you want to sign it, too? All right. Can't have too many signatures, I guess. I'll have it beamed down."
"That is not the issue!" Mulford said.
"Are you always this dense?" The Minister demanded, slamming his fist on the table.
"It's my strategy," O'Neill said.
A vein was standing out in the Minister's forehead. The air suddenly got very crispy, and there was a blinding flash of light on the far side of the room. The blue-robed goon squad pulled their wands, and pointed them at Daniel Jackson, who had appeared with a file folder in one hand and a bunch of funny looking flowers in the other.
"Sorry, I'm late," Daniel said. "I hope it's not a problem. I didn't think I'd be able to find my way up here otherwise."
Daniel handed the flowers to McGonagall.
"They're from Bre'tac. Well, sort of. He actually wanted to send you the severed talons of an M'tarn, but Teal'c convinced him these would be better received. It's a thank-you gift, for your assistance in the battle on PX499."
McGonagall nodded her thanks and conjured up another chair for Daniel to sit in. The goons were still pointing wands at him, but Daniel didn't seem to mind. Daniel leaned towards O'Neill.
"How's it going?" he asked in a low voice.
"Did you happen to bring a zat?"
They sat down by the edge of the lake. Hagrid hadn't been in his hut, so they'd just kept walking until they ran out of land.
"So are you going to tell us how you learned all that?" Ron asked.
Harry picked up a stone and tossed it into the water. The squid slapped it back. Harry snatched it out of the air a moment before it could strike Hermione in the face.
"I'll tell you. But I don't know…" Harry started to say.
He leaned down to get another rock to throw. His friends both saw the scars on the back of his neck, faded to almost nothing, but worrying all the same. Hermione reached out to touch them, and Harry lunged away, not stopping until he was knee deep in lake water.
"Sorry," he said, awkwardly slogging his way back up the bank. "They get in through…" he trailed off.
"Harry," Hermione said. "What's going on?"
He sat down again, this time facing them with his back to the water.
"I've…I've things to say but… I can't seem to get them out."
"Why don't we start then?" Hermione said. "I'm sure Bill and Charlie couldn't catch you up on everything. Let's see. We had new Potions and Transfiguration professors. Defense was even less organized than usual. Off-duty Aurors came in whenever they had time, to give us lessons. And I know they weren't discussing what they were going to cover. It had nothing to do with the reading. A lot of them just talked about the awful curses they had seen or been struck with while on duty. Tonks gave a rather funny lecture on figuring out if someone was really who they said they were. She came into the classroom looking like Professor Snape. It took forever for us to notice that he…she was wearing heels and fishnets."
"It was creepy!" Ron added.
As if Harry couldn't figure that out.
"Then for potions we have Slughorn. He plays favorites like you wouldn't believe. A rather eccentric elderly man named Gom taught transfiguration. He was from Queensland, though, and he used a staff instead of a wand so we had a hard time following what he was doing."
Harry sat listening as Hermione went on about new security rules, temporary refugee camps, and evacuation drills. Ron added some personal commentary on excessive homework, snotty Death Eaters' children, and the humiliating daily letters from his mum. After a while, Harry was able to tell them.
He told them in as few details as possible: Voldemort's mark and the curse, being sent away by the muggles, training and fighting with Jaffa, and a parasite in his head. They looked like they were ready to explode with questions, but did not ask. Hermione broke the long silence that followed.
"It's getting cold. We should go inside."
The boys nodded and they started walking back to the castle. Several lit wands were coming out to meet them. For a moment Harry held out hope that it was the other Gryffindors, come to welcome him back or at least stare. Then he saw Draco Malfoy was leading them.
"I still don't like that last paragraph," O'Neill said.
"Which part?" Mulford asked.
"So if the world is coming to an end, the sun is exploding, meteors are raining down, you still won't want to lend a hand?"
"It's hardly our responsibility," The Minister said.
"You do live on this planet," O'Neill pointed out. "Wouldn't you be even the slightest bit upset if it were no longer…you know…here?"
"The Earth will not be destroyed," The Minister said. "It has always been and always will be."
"Planets get blown up all the time," O'Neill said. "Haven't you ever seen Star Wars?"
The Minister gave him a cold glare. O'Neill shrugged.
"Alright, we'll leave it as is. It's not like we need your help."
Pens were passed around and parchment was signed. O'Neill leaned back and sighed. It wasn't the best treaty they could have worked out, but it did clearly establish where everyone stood. The Ministry would not interfere with SGC business or anything occurring outside the Earth's atmosphere. In return the SGC and muggle governments involved with it would not interfere, or apparently even make eye contact with "the Magic community". The only exceptions involved werewolves, who would be allowed into the moon base for treatment, and Harry Potter. Harry would be allowed to work with the SGC but he couldn't use magic to aid them, and the SGC was responsible for any problems Harry caused. And then there was nondisclosure all around.
Everyone was standing up and getting ready to leave. Daniel actually got a few of the wizards to shake his hand. O'Neill still couldn't understand how the archeologist could be such a "people person" and remain unable to pick up women in bars. O'Neill was about to ask McGonagall where the bathroom was when something outside exploded.
The blue robed goons all circled around the Minister. McGonagall looked put-upon and opened the door. She hurried out and Daniel and O'Neill were only a few steps behind her. They were out on the lawn a few minutes later. O'Neill hoped he'd still be moving that fast if he ever got to be that old.
A huge crowd of students were gathered in a semicircle around Harry and a slightly taller blond teenager. The Minister came huffing and puffing behind them.
"What's going on here?" The Minister demanded.
"Looks like a fight," O'Neill said.
"It appears Mr. Malfoy is upset about something," McGonagall said. "It probably has something to do with the death of his father. Lucius Malfoy was at the Ministry for a hearing when it was destroyed by Ba'al. He'd been warded to prevent him from disapparating and was unable to escape."
The blond shot another jet of red light at Harry, but he leapt over it. They circled each other. The blond was hissing insults, but Harry's face was calm.
"Mr. Potter does seem to be much more in control of his temper. I suppose there is something to be said for military discipline," McGongall said.
The blond swung his wand around again and this time a rope of white light whipped out of the end. Blondie snapped it at Harry's head but he lunged sideways out of its path, turning his momentum into a couple of cartwheels which carried him out of range.
"He learned that from the Jaffa," O'Neill said. "The United States Air Force does not condone the use of cartwheels."
Harry sidestepped another lash of the whip and took a few steps towards Blondie. He was forced back again when Blondie abandoned the whip and returned to the red blasts of energy.
"Are you going to end this?" the Minister demanded of McGonagall. "Potter is going to be killed. He's unarmed."
"Harry'll end it when he gets bored," O'Neill said confidently. "See. There he goes."
Harry charged the blond kid, ducking and sidestepping bursts of lights. His foot snapped up and he kicked the wand out of Blondie's hand. Harry could have finished the other kid off then, but he stepped back.
"This won't fix things," Harry said to the other boy.
"Go to hell, Potter," Blondie growled.
"I'd say 'been there', but that would be cliché," Harry said. "Give it up, Malfoy."
Blondie yelled and charged. Harry's fist caught him in the jaw. Blondie landed flat on his back and did not get up.
"Didn't even get to place bets," O'Neill muttered.
"Are you injured?" McGonagall asked as Harry walked up to her with Ron and Hermione trailing behind.
"No, Professor," Harry replied.
His left ear was a little singed, but O'Neill thought he looked ok. The Minister and his entourage stomped past them down the steps. The two Weasleys exchanged glares, but didn't speak. When they were gone, O'Neill turned to Harry.
"Settling in alright?"
Harry nodded. "It just wouldn't be school if somebody weren't trying to kill me."
McGonagall nodded. "You may return to school anytime you wish. I believe Ms. Granger has saved all your homework assignments for you."
"Yes," Hermione said agreeably. "You've got thirty seven essays due, and quite a bit of reading if you're going to catch up before exams. They're in three weeks, you know."
Harry smiled and turned to O'Neill.
"Am I staying, then?" Harry asked.
"If you want, though we'd really appreciate it if you could pigeon us the plans for the satellite defense system."
"Owl, sir," Hermione corrected.
"Owl to you too," O'Neill said. "Well, if you'll excuse us, we need to give these papers to…somebody."
"General Copeland," Daniel provided. "It was nice meeting you," the archeologist said, addressing the group.
O'Neill shook everyone's hands and then reached into his pocket. There was a beep and the two muggles vanished in a flash of light.
"Did my school trunk ever turn up?" Harry asked.
"Yeah," Ron said. "It's by your bed. It's a bit beat up though. You might want to conjure yourself up a cot for the night as well."
"Dobby's made a sort of shrine on your bed."
"He's also been trying to write a memorial ballad for you. He keeps asking Hermione and I for input."
Harry looked to Hermione.
"It's five hundred stanzas and doesn't contain a single pronoun," she said.
"You want to hear the first verse?" Ron asked.
"Too bad," Ron said.
As the three Gryffindors climbed the steps, terrible singing echoed through the castle, but everyone slept more soundly despite it.The End