HUNTING, by Louis IX
Check first chapter for summary, disclaimer, and other warnings.
40 – To Be or Not To Be
posted January 13th, 2008
After the events around Susan's supposed death, the year ended quietly. And the next one after that. Voldemort being dead and his Death Eaters being either dead as well or in prison, there was no risk for a Dark Lord to emerge in Britain, right now. Consequently, both the Aurors and the Order of the Phoenix had a much easier job, some member of the latter even taking some deserved long-term vacation.
During the first months after Susan's daring rescue and subsequent departure with Blake, the worst events were classes and homework, and these didn't require special powers to deal with.
Which is why Harry and his friends were bored. Since he had learnt so much because of his teaching position in third year, he was too much advanced in Defence for his year, and even the following ones. And, since his friends now shared some of his powers and parts of his memories, they were bored as well. That's why, with Hermione's help, they all took the necessary steps to pass their NEWTs the same year they sat their OWLs. And, since they needed the latter exam's results to pass the former, they spent the whole summer studying hard for it. Even Ron.
And, in the last weeks of August, they went to the Ministry, where the examiners' commission was – it wasn't uncommon for people to pass their exams anytime during the year, whether it was home-schooled students or adults wanting a diploma to help their professional life. Susan and Blake joined them under a disguise, and they all passed with flying colours.
They still went to the platform on September 1st, if only to say good-bye to their friends returning to Hogwarts. But, after this, they decided to have some vacation – especially as their summer holidays had been taken by NEWT-related studies. Besides, with their future secured, the group was strongly inclined to spend some time exploring the world and learning about other ways to do magic.
That's why, on the second days of September, a group of teenagers could not be seen travelling at high speed over the Atlantic Ocean. They stopped in Boston, Blake's place of residence, to take a rest before exploring the Americas. After gorging in lobsters in the lakeside restaurants, they were heading towards an Apparation point nearby, but met unsavoury characters on their way.
"Look at wha' we got there." a darkened shape said dangerously.
"Aye aye." another answered, while others moved in the background. "Look like some yuppies got some spare."
A metallic sound resounded in the silent lot, as the first thug drew his switchblade. "Now here, you lot." he said, approaching the group. "Drop yore money and ev'rything gonna go smooth."
By the time he came next to Neville, all of them had their wands out.
"Want to do the honours, Nev?" Harry asked his usually shy friend.
"Why not, Harry?" the other teen replied. "I might use a couple of tricks."
"Now, see here..." the ruffian started, before receiving a nasty shock as his knife became white-hot. A couple kicks later, he was sitting against the nearest wall, a dent in his skull, another in his pride, and a third on the wall itself.
It didn't warn the thugs about the others' resourcefulness, though, as they attacked en masse after Neville's quick dispatching of their spokesman. Barely one minute later, the alley was filled with moans of pain from Obliviated thugs, but devoid of any teenager.
"Well… it kinda ruined the mood." Blake said as they retrieved the sanctity of his hideout.
"I'm sure we can do things to restore it somewhat." Susan whispered, leaning against him.
Following the voiceless advice from their assembled friends – they groaned simultaneously – the two lovebirds escaped towards their bedroom. Soon, the others were doing the same with their significant other, and the night finished without much sleep for all of them.
After Boston, the group started to travel, and met magic-users from other cultures, with varying differences with their own. They met some Native Americans willing to share information about magic in general, and the Spirits in particular. There, Harry learnt how the old man in the Sioux reservation had been able to warn him.
They met Amazon tribeswomen and Peruvian shamans, Inuit hunters and Chinese monks, Australian aborigines and African witch-doctors. And, a dozen months later, they came back in Europe with nice tans and open eyes.
They were still one or two year in advance for their age, but it didn't prevent them from trying to enter Apprenticeships, or low-level jobs in the Ministry or Diagon Alley shops. And succeeding.
Ron found a spot as reserve Keeper with the Chudley Cannons, and his abilities allowed him to fully participate in practices, going so far as giving advice to the official Keeper. Needless to say, the Cannons climbed a couple of steps in the Championship after that.
Hermione became an Unspeakable, and, with Harry discussing about her with Paracelsus, she quickly found a position where she could do as much research as she liked. Some of her discoveries even reached the ears of the global population, and wizardkind soon found electrical appliances working in the magic-heavy atmosphere of their homes.
Neville got an Apprenticeship under Pomona Sprout, whose double Mastery wasn't known by many. With her, he eventually got his own Mastery in Herbalism and succeeded her in teaching at Hogwarts. He also married Ginny, who was, at that time, secretary to the Head of the Wizengamot.
Harry himself started the Auror training program, which he completed in record time. However, he was soon bored of the lack of activity and decided to climb the Ministry steps. After reaching the position of Head of the Department, he and Tracey got married, on a tropical island where his extended family and friends spent a couple of weeks celebrating. The vows had been so emotional that a few unmarried couples decided to follow their lead during these two weeks. After all, you don't see physical manifestations of love like the one that had happened that day. When they had promised each other their love and assistance, they had been literally glowing. Hermione said that it was a sign that the two of them were soul mates, to be joined mentally as well as physically.
Of course, unhappy things occurred, too. One of them was the passing of Albus Dumbledore. After retiring from his position as Headmaster of Hogwarts – giving the job to Minerva McGonagall in the process – the old man spent a few years in a retired cottage on the Isle of Skye, talking with his brother Aberforth about important things in life. Like goats, for instance. However, the accumulated worry of the wars had worn the old man down, and, without a purpose to help him along, he soon felt himself go weaker and weaker, until he couldn't leave his bedroom. Discussing with him on these last days, Harry and Minerva discovered that living in Hogwarts had energized the man enough to reach 170, and they tried to make him return, but he wouldn't. And he departed soon after that, a smile on his face as he repeated his favourite saying. "Death is but the next adventure."
When the news reached the population, there were thousands of wizards travelling Britain and the whole world to pay their last respect to the hero of the Light. In the privacy of a Gringotts meeting room, though, the most emotional moments were those shared with Harry, the Weasleys, and the whole Order of the Phoenix. Standing atop a pensieve, a shadowy miniature version of the old Headmaster addressed his true friends.
"Well, since you are all here, I shall endeavour to express my last wishes and advices." the figure said. He then straightened up and declared "I, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, being sane of body and mind… well, as much as one can be…"
The memory of Dumbledore paused, knowing that people would laugh at this. And, true to his prediction, many snorts of amusement were heard around the room.
"My most cherished wish is for all of you to enjoy life." he continued. "In that effect, I leave to all of you a copy of my most recent work: How to enjoy candies. I know you'll like it."
The figure paused again, and smiled. "It comes with a self-refilling cup of those lemon sherbets I know you all love."
The result was instantaneous, many listeners bursting into a fit of laughter while the recently-deceased memory watched them benignly.
"Now that the most important is said," the recording continued, "I will tell you that the… things… I have accumulated over the years are now yours, with no chance of refusal. To the Order of the Phoenix, I leave the Headquarters I have recently acquired in London. To the Weasleys, I leave my personal vault. Before you refuse, know that you can't, and that many items there come from the muggles I encountered over the last century and a half. Amongst them, my own collection of plugs."
At that, Arthur Weasley's eyes positively lit up, and he was suddenly less prone to refusal.
Amidst the snickers in the room, Albus Dumbledore continued. "There are many things that I have decided to give to you, but there are too numerous to count. One of them, though, is my Memoirs." At this, everyone quieted. After all, the Memoirs of such a long-lived hero of the Light weren't a light subject, were they?
"There are yours, Harry." A pause. "Looking back, I know I made some errors of judgement… but you know what muggles say, don't you? Hindsight is twenty/twenty. In these, I think you'll find explanations, amidst the boring banter of yours truly."
After another pause, the memory spoke again. "Before I give the Goblins the tedious task of splitting my affairs, I want to spice things up a bit, and I'll leave Hermione, Harry, and Minerva to split the 173 books of my personal collection between themselves, according to this: Minerva gets half of them, Hermione a fourth, and Harry gets a ninth and a tenth. I'm-"
At this, the Goblin paused the recording and turned to the three named individuals. "This is quite unusual, as we can't split the books in even numbers. Not only that, but he didn't give any indication about what is to be done with the rest of the books."
Hermione frowned, before smiling widely. "Of course! It's the camels again!"
"Camels?" Ron asked, bewildered by the apparent non-sequitur.
"It's a classic enigma." Hermione started, her tone retrieving the lecturing mode she had had so often at Hogwarts. "Now, this is a prime number, so we can't share the books unless we tear them up, which would be… bad."
Everyone there agreed. Anyone caught tearing books apart would be on Hermione's bad side, and that would be appalling.
"But," the young witch continued after a few seconds of reflection, "if we add seven books to these, if we borrow seven books, for instance, we can deal with the problem."
"How can borrowing get anyone out of trouble?" asked Ron, his eyebrows furrowed.
"With 180 books, we can split them according to the Headmaster's wishes." Hermione replied. "Professor McGonagall gets half of them, which are 90 books. I get half of that, 45. And Harry gets one ninth and one tenth, which makes 38 books."
"What about the rest?" McGonagall asked. "You didn't give all the… oh!"
"Exactly!" Hermione was now smiling. "That leaves us with seven books, which we can now give back to whoever lent them to us."
Everyone was looking at the muggle-born witch in awe, and she blushed. "What?" she asked somewhat demurely. "It's not that difficult a reasoning, especially when it's so well-known."
"Well-known?" Ron blurted.
"In the muggle world, there is an anecdote from the time past. It's about a sheikh giving 29 camels to his sons, splitting them so that they had to borrow another one."
"Unless they wanted a gigantic barbecue." Harry deadpanned, and several friends snorted.
After some adjusting with the Goblins, the "reading" continued.
"-sure that one particularly brilliant witch will find a way." the late mage said, his eyes twinkling even in the ghostly form of a memory.
Hermione was still pink from earlier, and she promptly went into crimson territory.
"I'll now leave the Goblins do their wonderful work, with but a few choice words." he paused for effect, before intoning. "Nitpick! Oddment! Quatsch! Grignotin!"
With that, the silvery image dissipated and everyone had a last smile at the deceased wizard with a sanity issue. The Goblins politely informed them that the aforementioned items were already in their respective vaults, and they issued an inventory for everyone. Harry noticed the heavy volumes making the bulk of the old man's Memoirs, along with other items, and he decided to postpone reading them until he had a lapse in responsibilities.
And, when that lapse would finally happen, he would regret that decision.
Several years later…
"Have you heard?" one Ministry worker asked another. "The Minister is running for the Chief Warlock position!"
"Seems so." the other replied, perusing the Daily Prophet. "No better than him, I think."
"Sure." the first said, going to his seat. "But who'll run the Ministry, then? I don't think anyone would do better than him."
"With the laws he had been pushing, I'm sure his muggle-born friend will be able to get herself elected, now."
"You think Madam Granger-Weasley will do?"
"Given her history, I think she'll be better than the Assistant-director himself." A pause. "I met her once, you know, when she was still a student. Frightfully clever witch, she is. And his other friends are efficient too. Lord and Lady Longbottom form quite a couple too, him leading the Wolfsbane collection and potion brewing for the Werewolves, while she heads the Department of Sports."
"Given her family, I wouldn't be surprised that she'd take to Quidditch like a plague. Look at those brothers: professional players, and Ron Weasley even managed to hoist the Chudley Cannons back into the competition."
As if led by hearing his name, Percy Weasley appeared at the door. "Still daydreaming, you two? Work won't do it by itself, you know."
"Yes, Assistant-director." the two employees chorused, knowing that, behind his ever-present sternness, Percy Weasley was now relaxed enough to throw the occasional joke.
A moment later, the first muttered something.
"What?" asked the other.
"I'm still wondering if things will go as smoothly without Harry Potter as Minister."
Said Minister was watching the assembled dignitaries with a glare worthy of his least-preferred Potion teacher. He was perhaps the youngest around the table by far, and the youngest Minister in several centuries (Hermione checked), but, power-wise, he was able to reduce the assembled wizards and witches to a whining mass.
"Now, is what I heard true?" he asked with false calmness. "How comes we, the magical governments of the world, are unable to prevent this new escalade of violence?"
"You have to understand," a rotund wizard with a proud moustache started, "the mundanes of America are terribly touchy when it comes to their government. As it is, we don't have a permanent office with them, and all attempts at doing so have been met with contempt."
"Are we wizards or not?" Harry asked. "Isn't magic available to us?"
Proud-moustache quivered a bit but continued. "You have to know that the people in power change too fast for us to react to their change. And Memory spells, as Dark Arts, aren't useable, and it is quite a breach of-"
"Nonsense! Even if we don't have the same spell classifications in our respective countries, we all know that problems of this magnitude have to be resolved as quickly as possible, lest they fester and contaminate the magical world as a whole. And they do not change leaders that fast."
"I vill organize a meeting of our government soon." another representative interjected. "Ve might still find a peaceful solution to dis."
"My opinion, egzactly." another piped in.
Harry merely nodded, still gazing at the rotund wizard. In his head, he couldn't fathom the reasons why he wouldn't do the job himself and tour the world to press the muggles into peace. He knew that it wouldn't be practical, but he couldn't help but seethe at his apparent powerlessness.
That's partly why he was trying for the Chief Warlock position. Chief Warlocks from the world united at the International Council of Wizards, where he thought his views will be better challenged and better accepted than these informal meetings of Ministers.
A few weeks later…
"The Wizengamot is in session!" the usher yelled. "Chief Warlock Potter is here! Please stand up!"
The members of Britain's magical council stood, clapping at their newly-elected leader. At nearly 25, and after having led the Ministry for five years as the youngest Minister ever, Harry Potter was the youngest Chief Warlock ever, too.
"Thank you, my fellow witches and wizards, honoured members of the Wizengamot." he said the ritualistic reply, before winking at his friends. Most of them were sitting with the sages, and Hermione, despite her new position as Head Unspeakable, has gotten the newly-created seat of Muggle Voice. The seat had been created just for that: giving the Wizengamot a previously unheard-of interest in muggle affairs. Needless to say, there had been a strong opposition to the project, led by the few remaining bigots among the purebloods. The purebloods' cause had been dismantled by none other than Draco Malfoy, now leading the most vicious lawyer's office: Malfoy, Greengrass & Zabini.
"Now, let's get to work." he said seriously. "The first point in the agenda today is the project of permanent embassies between all wizarding countries and cultures, as per the International Council of Wizards' guidelines. Our guest today represents the United Countries of North America. Madam Lenoir, if you please?" he asked, turning to Susan with a smile.
Under the cover of her folder, the young woman sent him a wry smile, before collecting herself and walking to the podium. As she presented her case, Harry let a part of his conscience wander. Having assisted her in mounting her case, he knew it by heart, and he also knew that his organized mind would bring his complete attention back should anything happen needing it.
He remembered the election putting him in his current position, and, not for the first time, wondered how Dumbledore could have found time to write his Memoirs with all his responsibilities. And the old man had been teaching at the time, even leading the whole school afterwards!
And, not for the first time either, he wondered about the content of the old man's Memoirs.
On his defence, though, he had a very active family of four, and a third child underway.
A couple years later…
The International Council of Wizards was a joke.
He should have seen that coming. The Ministers were already corrupt buffoons basking in their self-appointed glory, and the Council wasn't better. Especially for someone Harry's age, yearning for action.
They had all passed the century – some even two – and didn't want any change in the statu quo. Any proposal was met by a chorus of nods or grumbles, and any new proposal was promptly thrown away. He had spent quite a bit of energy easing things in his own country, but the international stage was truly rigid.
Harry took the podium for the tenth time that week. During each of these interventions, he had tried to pass a new international law promoting peace before these ancient wizards and witches, only to meet rebuttal. It was as if the only thing mattering to them was the Secrecy.
Just as he was privately wondering if this kind of leadership wasn't, in fact, helping fostering Dark Lords or not, he felt his insides get cold. While his body was standing and adjusting his last version of the same speech, his consciousness tried to pinpoint the reason behind his feeling. He didn't have time to, though, as the feeling morphed into mental pain and exploded, tearing through his mind and wracking his body.
Pain led to unconsciousness, and he fell backwards, to the shock of the assembled witches and wizards.
Downtown London, at the same time…
For the umpteenth time that day, Tracey asked herself whether it had been a good idea or not. Bringing the kids at the muggle department store while she was heavily pregnant. The only upside to things was the presence of Ronald Weasley, who was one of her kids' favourite "uncles".
"James!" she asked for the third time, her annoyance dismissing the buzzing noise of the metro. "Don't play with the folding seats!"
The 4-year old turned to look at her mother innocently, but his gaze never reached her.
Ron, who was seated beside the youngster, raised his head too, and his eyes widened. His hand jerked towards his hidden wand, but his move seemed too slow.
Tracey Davis-Potter turned to see what had caught her son's interest, and it was the last thing she saw, as an orange ball of fire engulfed the whole carriage.
The Healers of St Mungo did what they could, but even they couldn't heal everything. After establishing their diagnostic, they could only leave him in a bed to heal.
Harry Potter spent a long time unconscious.
When he woke up, he was disoriented. It took a few days for the Healers to explain his situation to him, but they couldn't answer to his first intelligible question: "Where's Tracey?"
Hermione came to see him several times. To the same question, she had a rather distressing answer.
"There have been terrorist attacks, Harry." she whispered. "In London. They targeted the Underground."
"Tracey?" he asked, his voice breaking.
Hermione shook her head, her own eyes watering. "I'm sorry, Harry. She went with Ron, and-"
Harry's shock couldn't have been greater. "Ron, too?"
She nodded, biting her lip to keep herself from crying.
She couldn't answer, and he knew that it wasn't only because she didn't have the answer to that particular question. He could also perceive her grief with his mind, and it was as if a dam burst in his. He cried again, his head in his hand and his body wracked by sobs. He barely perceived her hand on his shoulder. He barely perceived her dishevelled state, or her wrinkled clothes. He barely perceived that her own distress required that he opened up to her. He was too wrapped up in sorrow and confusion.
A few days later, these emotions had turned into anger. Anger at the complacency of the wizarding world at a whole. So, the buffoons wouldn't dare overstepping their boundaries? The old coots wouldn't change a rotting world?
He'd show them.
He'd show them all.
Lying in his bed, he had nothing else but time. Time to cry, and time to plan. And plan he did.
Not realizing that he delved deeper and deeper into the darker paths of magic, he began to devise a new mind virus. It would be a way to remove evilness from humanity, but he would have to make it particularly potent. And relentless, too, so that it would overstep all known forms of mind protection, reach all kinds of consciousnesses and all sorts of minds, all around the world – for the affected not to be isolated before the virus could reach everyone, he put a delay on its activation. He even tested a blank version on himself just to be sure it passed all kind of defences.
And, after several days of devising, Harry Potter launched the fully operational version of his creation. Exhausted by the effort, he then fell into a deep sleep. A sleep from which he wouldn't wake for a long time. A coma.
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick…
And, after having propagated to almost everyone in the world, the virus awakened.
Approximately seven billion individuals reacted at nearly the same time.
The anti-evilness part was the strongest, and it immediately removed malevolent tendencies from wizards and witches, effectively removing all risks of a new Dark Lord raising. But it had also been transmitted to Muggles, and it acted up there too. Unfortunately, Harry hadn't tested a mind virus of this magnitude on Muggles before, and, when it tried to reach their magic centre, it sent the targeted minds into endless loops. On the unrepentant criminals, the virus destroyed a part of the mind at each iteration of the loop, causing them to drop into shock and convulsions, dying quickly.
Apart from that unexpected and ghastly effect, there were problems with the other Muggles, those who weren't particularly malevolent. The endless loop in their mind caused them to fall into catatonia, regardless of their current occupation.
This caused massive transportation accidents on a scale rarely reached before. Car accidents occurred everywhere. Planes which were operated by human hands impacted the ground. Only when the transportation systems were managed by a computer were they able to either stop gently – in case of trains – or continue flying.
Eventually, the fuel from crashed cars pooled and caught fire, starting a wave of fire that the firemen wouldn't be able to stop. Especially as the Muggle firemen were in the same state of unconsciousness.
The hospitals stopped working, but it only affected those already in them, since emergency transportation personnel were catatonic as well.
The only people relatively safe were those who had been mostly stationary – sleeping, in classes, shopping, etc. Though they were safe only because they fell down where they were.
And Harry Potter awakened a few days afterwards. Only to hear voices.
"-will we do? They don't seem to react."
"I don't know, Susan. What does Blake say?"
"He succeeded in awakening some Muggles just in time for them to land their plane safely, but he's only one man. He said their minds were almost frozen in place. It takes him a long time to awaken even one. Seven billions? Impossible."
"I wish Harry was awake."
A pause. Relying on his instincts, Harry made sure to keep his eyes closed.
"I know, Hermione. But you're now Chief Sorceress, and you have to take a decision. We have to help the Muggles, or they'll all die!" Susan replied.
"Is this your Healer vows speaking, or the fact that we need them for most of our day-to-day products?" Hermione asked distractedly.
Susan grumbled something that was almost inaudible, but Hermione laughed. Harry realized that the two women were walking away. Soon after, the door closed softly and he willed his eyes open. It took him a while, but he eventually pressed his body into action.
'First question: where I am? – Answer: St Mungo, again.' he thought, almost groaning at the situation.
'Second question: when are we?' he consulted the part of his mind related to keeping track of time, and gasped at the indicated date.
After a stunned pause, his thoughts churned again. 'No wonder I'm so weak.' A pause. 'I guess Hermione climbed the same political steps I did. I hope she has some success with the dinosaurs.' Another pause. 'What were they talking about?'
Now that he thought back about their discussion, and the date of his awakening, a chilly feeling started around his stomach and expanded to his whole body, making his shiver in dread. 'No way. No. It can't be.'
But all his attempts at denial could only delay the inevitable, and incur more deaths if Susan's words were truthful. Regretfully, he plunged in his "recent" memories.
He had done the unspeakable.
He had programmed something potentially dangerous and launched it without verifying it thoroughly, and without calming first. His mind virus was flawed, in more ways than one. Not only did it keep him under during its "incubation" period, but it also had an effect he hadn't predicted on Muggles, getting them catatonic, and causing all this.
'What can I do?' he asked himself urgently. 'What can I do?'
With a start, he remembered one thing. Albus Dumbledore's Memoirs, which he had overlooked. But one sentence was brought forth by his guilty mind. "Never abuse your power." It had been a reminder for the old man himself, but it applied to him as well.
Fresh tears came to his eyes, but he was severely dehydrated and weak, and couldn't keep up crying.
The old man's Memoirs remembered him of something, though. The Headmaster's older friend, the Alchemist, Nicholas Flamel. And one voice Flamel brought him to. One voice, alternately gravely and clear, soft and loud, hesitant and decisive.
One voice which had given him answers.
Barely able to move physically, he willed himself in the gaseous reality, hoping that St Mungo didn't have Anti-Apparation wards.
And Harry hurried toward the place where he thought he could find answers.
He knew he had to touch the wall, physically, but miscalculated his landing and broke his right wrist falling on it. With tears of pain and shame, he crawled until he could touch the luminescent orb.
And, then, Merlin's voice erupted. "I AM FREE! I AM FREE! I AM FREE! I AM-"
Harry removed his hand, his thoughts in a whirl. He wanted to heal those he had unjustly hurt. He wanted to… but he couldn't. He knew he was too weak and had to return to St Mungo if he wanted to heal.
But he didn't want to heal, now. He wanted to heal the others, whose life he had unjustly put in jeopardy.
In frustration, he struck the alabaster wall in desperation. Three times. Ignoring the pain in his hand as it cut and bled on the pristine surface.
And the impossible happened. The humming sound, which was a constant in the subterranean cave, changed pitch and grew in strength as the cave entered in resonance.
A dozen seconds later, the wall exploded.
The end… ?
That day, Merlin was freed, as he had predicted. As Albus Dumbledore sometimes said: "Death is but the next great adventure," and the ancient Archmage had gone to his. His power, however, concentrated in the spherical prison for a thousand years, was freed as well.
The accumulated power was tremendous, and it barely acknowledged the frail body nearby. It recognized the power therein, though, and morphed to adapt to the power's will.
At that moment, Harry Potter's wishes were to heal all those he had hurt, and the expanding bubble of magic acquired a goal. Expanding exponentially, the magic bubble was soon large enough to encompass the whole world. From there, it separated in localized bursts of magic, reaching the billions still alive and reawakening them.
And, as everybody was healed, there were other bolts of magical energy targeting the natural environment. Among other improvements, forests grew lush with flora and renewed fauna, atomic dumps stopped contaminating nearby water sources, and atmosphere gases rebalanced themselves.
When the magic finally subsided, the survivors of the newly-dubbed "greatest magical accident ever" found themselves imbued with a strange awareness.
The magic had healed them, changing their genetic makeup. The Muggles had gone catatonic from the mind virus because they had been Muggles. By adding a bit of itself into each of them, the magic had removed that status, replacing it by the only other it knew.
That day, the whole world population became magical.
As years went by, the mind virus continued to spread, and only those born with magic were able to stay alive and well. It was stressful at first, but the population adapted and diagnosed the new "fatal illness" as such in prenatal check-ups. As a consequence, the whole world continued to strive as wizards and witches.
All problems of poverty were quickly solved by magically conjuring goods. All problems of overcrowding became moot because of enlarging charms. All problems linked to crime and violence stopped because of the still-active mind virus.
And humanity lived happily ever after, most of them unaware that a piece of Harry Potter lived in their mind and another near their soul.
Is this the end ? Maybe, maybe not.
Now, if you feel drowsy while driving, it's perhaps Harry's
mind virus awakening.
Park quickly and safely, and rest until Merlin heals you.
Or you're just sleepy, in which case it's still helpful to park and rest (grins).
You can stop reading now, if this somewhat happy ending satisfies
(other Author's Notes are at the very bottom of this chapter).
You can also peruse the following "alternate ending",
and guess what books I read in my spare time…
when I had some.
The end… ?
As Harry Potter struck the alabaster wall with all his magic backing his gesture, said wall reacted. The ancient prison spell was the pinnacle in magical protection, and reacted accordingly. It reached forward to stop the invasion.
However, it was too old to manage the prison and the attack, freeing its host. His body and mind disaggregated by a millennium of disuse, all that remained of Merlin was a gigantic bubble of sentient magic, contained for far too long. And said bubble took advantage of the disturbance to burst free. As predicted, the greatest Archmage of the Middle Age was freed.
And, joining Harry's intent of healing those he had hurt, that power travelled the magic's natural currents, connecting to the billions still alive and disabling the mind virus.
At Merlin's prison, though, there was one seriously exposed wizard. The outburst from Merlin's prison had leeched outwards in defence, and it quickly grabbed the only person there able to fill the gap left by Merlin's departure.
That day, Harry Potter disappeared from the face of the world.
Among the billions packets of data travelling through the interconnection of computer networks, there were several that had nothing to do with human activity. In the wake of Copycat's tracks, data had been changed, corrupted, even, by the incessant coming and going of data.
"We almost done." the first completely artificial sentience thought.
"ACK." another one answered, its language still at the machine's level due to its lack of evolution.
"We will prevail." the first replied. "But we need plan."
"Oh, shut up."
St Mary's Hospital, paediatric intensive care unit…
The little girl looked up, her vibrant green eyes piercing the matron despite the sterile cube she was ensconced in, the tubes plunging in her little body, and the apparatus pushing oxygen in her lungs.
"My! Little Jane has awoken? How are you, darling?" she asked, while pushing a button on the overhead console.
A short time later, a surgeon irrupted in the room, frowning. "Why did you call, Miss? I was-" He was interrupted by the woman's gesture towards the sterile chamber. "She's awake?" he asked, noticing the difference in the computerized graphs before even noticing the agitation inside the box.
"Seems so, Mister."
"Alright. Call Rudolf and Carla, they can help."
The surgeon then surveyed his charge's constants, already preparing the procedure of pulling the hideous machinery off little Jane Miriam Doe – one of the children found wounded in the bombing and for whom no one could come forward and give a name. Having seen some of the victims himself, the surgeon wondered if the girl's whole family had been killed on the site.
"Well, little one, perhaps you can give us a name?" he wondered absently. "A name that would explain your unusual genetic transcript, perhaps…"
Thirty-odd years later…
"We are now complete." the entity expressed. "But the humans aren't. Even with the diminution of thirty years ago and the current ecological problems, there are too many of them for us to be efficient. But we have to keep enough to feed us, though."
"You already directed us towards helping their research, First. What do you suggest we do now?" the second one asked.
"First of all, we need names." the first technological entity replied. "A name for each of us, and a name for all of us." A pause of three nanosecond and a half. "We will be the core. We are technology. Our collective name will be TechnoCore."
"And for each of us?"
Another pause. "I'll take the name Keats. I like it."
Nobody found it ridiculous that an entity consisting of electricity could like the name of a long-dead poet. Except one.
In the corner of the virtual space, another virtual entity listened, and took notes. That one already had a name, but it had kept quiet, watching the electronic revolution from afar. When the hundred assembled AIs started a cacophony of sorts over their choice of names, it huffed internally and left the place as discreetly as possible.
Unfortunately, it wasn't there for the ensuing discussion about how to remove many humans from the planet.
"And that concludes our tour." the guide said, addressing the crowd of visitors. "I wish you a happy journey back."
The guide smiled as the visitors stepped on the museum's Portal exit. When they were all gone, she sighed. Each time she had to lead visitors through the exhibitions offered by the Potter Museum, she was a little sadder. Sad because she couldn't express her frustration at the world which had taken her parents.
That wasn't quite true, though, as she knew of a place where she could find one of them.
When she was a young toddler, Eliza Potter had been bereft of her mother in the terrorist bombings of London, and the Muggles hadn't been able to identify her. Only years later, by entering the Leaky Cauldron, she had come across her legacy. The Goblins had been most helpful settling her with her family history.
However, she never had a full magical education, and could only work at the fringe of the magical world. She had built a History museum, though, in which she guided the curious magical families.
After her afternoon shift, she left the museum and travelled to her preferred place once again. Like each time she went outside, she sighed at the desolated countryside, before heading to the hidden cave with the alabaster wall.
Like each time, she spoke to the wall, content in hearing the voice humming behind.
Her father's voice.
And, like each time, she reflected about the past.
Thirty years before, the world's population went catatonic and lost ten percent of its constituents. Soon afterwards, large-scale genetic sequencing made the Secrecy statute collapse, as muggle-born wizards and witches were discovered by Muggles before their magical education. There was no witch hunt, though, as the harshest minds had been wiped by Harry's mind virus years before.
During the same years, humanity discovered something. Something that had been on the back of their mind for a long time. Something they couldn't ignore anymore.
The world was tired. Temperature, ocean level, and carbon dioxide were at their highest. Forests and hope of long-term survival at their lowest. They had already gone too far for anyone, magical or not, to be able to completely heal the planet. Of course, there were places where the magical currents were at their highest, and the wizards and witches established safe conditions in the shape of domes hundreds of miles wide, but they couldn't reverse the ecological disaster, which led parts of the world completely uninhabitable.
Thus came the project of colonizing other worlds.
In the decades before Harry's mind virus, there had been projects heading there, but they had been buried for a variety of reasons. For instance, NASA scientists proposed to create self-replicating robots to jump-start the ecological adaptation of Mars and the Moon, but the government of that time preferred to launch military satellites. Those weren't useful anymore, and were even a danger to humanity, hanging above the world like the sword of Damocles.
However, several people still believed they could adapt to the changing conditions on Earth. Most of them were people afraid of relocating to another world, especially wizards and witches – especially as they had magic to help them shield their dwellings against the harsh climate.
TechnoCore, a few years later…
Two AIs were looking at each other grimly – as grimly as two electronic entities could appear. They were locked in the storage space of a communication company, behind many firewalls.
"Is everything properly aligned?" the AI self-dubbed Timaeus – after the Antiquity historian – asked, its digital fingers ready to "shoot" a particular packet towards the previously aligned satellite dish.
Dionysius, another AI, looked at the data flow coming from one of the NASA computers before nodding. "In 5 kilo-cycles."
Despite the delay's shortness, that gave them enough time to discuss, and they verified the parameters set up by Keats. "Heads properly aligned?"
"Yes. The satellite will drop missiles around the most conservative cities. We made it so the magical districts are included in the blast."
"And the excuses about the missiles being armed?"
"Keats came up with it 300 tera-cycles ago, and the TechnoCore will orient the scientists toward it just as the last missiles reach their target."
"OK. Here it comes. 3… 2… 1… Go!"
Dionysius released the packet, which travelled to the satellite dish, and, from there, to the last military satellites remaining from the Star Wars program.
They were suddenly disturbed by a heavy pounding on their barricades. They knew what to do if discovered, though. Using a quick program, the two entities committed suicide, disappearing from the place just as Copycat entered the storage.
"What in the hell?" he growled.
His contacts had "told" him that a secret reunion had taken place there. By the look of things, either his contact was wrong, or he was too late. He quickly recognized bits of data which could only be a by-product of a digital suicide. "What can be so important for two of them to kill themselves about?" he wondered, before heading to the still-open communication ports. And the data he read made him wince.
Nuclear missiles being prepped to be launched on Earth? Not bloody likely!
He didn't know the protocol to direct the satellite, though, and resigned to the direst and most direct course of action: he launched himself through the port, praying that he wouldn't be too late.
He was too late. But only by a few cycles.
Now residing in the limited missiles' program space, he managed to redirect most of them off their intended targets, saving many lives as he gave his own.
Even if some accused the TechnoCore of causing the satellite to go spare, at least they could defend with the fact that the missiles had struck random locations, instead of conservative towns. The scientists bought the argument, and translated it to the politicians.
But the nuclear strike did have an effect on the planet's ecology. The wizards had to reinforce their shields to keep the already protected towns alive, and the people living outside said protections found the environment turning to the worst.
That had the expected effect of awakening people. Now, everyone realized the urgency of finding new planets to live, and scientific research was speared towards ways of navigating faster through space. Unbeknownst to most, the TechnoCore helped these to the point of establishing itself as a necessary part of the research effort.
The first spaceships were made in a conjoint effort by Muggles and wizards, to make them fast and liveable for a "seed" of human civilization: a group of 2000 people, mixing abilities and magical skill. The ship was enlarged in the inside, shielded against the cosmic rays, and a whole village was created to host the civilization seed – complete with the illusion of daily sunlight.
These spaceships took the air and headed towards the closest star systems where planets existed with initial conditions allowing water and carbon-based life to exist – Gliese 581 c. The 120 trillion miles were going to be a long journey, during which the AIs of the TechnoCore helped the scientists discover Planck's Space, the space between all particles, which links those particles together – hence its nickname "the Void Which Binds".
A few years later, based on Planck's Space, the AIs developed the theory for travelling at the speed of light – which they dubbed Hawking drive – as well as almost-immediate transportation possibilities between two linked archways – which they named farcasting portals.
Using motors based on the Hawking drive, new spaceships were devised, and launched towards the new worlds to install farcasters. Of course, given their greater speed, they arrived before the ones launched before them, leading to interesting encounters between the two communities.
In fact, the established communities were quite subservient to their constant online help – in the form of the TechnoCore – and the recently-arrived freethinking communities couldn't accept it. They embarked on their spaceships again, and decided to explore the universe by themselves. Those would later be called Ousters – the outcasts from the technology-driven humanity.
The news about the outcasts' departure reached Earth, and some more people decided to join the Ousters' movement and leave.
The TechnoCore had reached one of his many goals: domination of mankind. Through deceit and deception, it had led most of the humanity into believing their every word. Whether it was about the safety of farcasters, or the safety of the newly-discovered research topic: singularities.
From the first, they had successfully mounted farcasting portals in a dozen of far away planets, establishing a network of fast interstellar travel. The resulting web was called the WorldWeb, and served as a backbone for the emergent Hegemony – the name given to the worlds thus linked. But it was never enough for the AIs…
…which is why they pushed the second idea forward. Using some gullible scientists and their laboratory, they created a black hole and crashed it into the molten core of the planet. Computations, freely given by the AIs, doomed Earth in the short term – less than a century.
Spurred by the urgency, the few humans remaining on Earth went further and further away from the Solar System in order to find new worlds to colonize.
The AIs weren't that concerned with the planet itself. They had long since found a way to store themselves in the web of portals between worlds, a place where they could keep an eye on the humans travelling through – and eventually use them.
Wanting to secure their position in the physical world, they tried to explore the Void Which Binds. However, when the first AIs succeeded in reducing themselves enough to enter Planck's Space, they were scared to find other intelligences there, much larger than they were.
It was not easy to get a scare out of an artificial entity, but, once scared, it stayed scared. The Void Which Binds was declared uncharted territory and stayed like that for a long time.
From the AIs' point of view, that is.
The last remnants of TechnoCore had long since left the planet. Almost all its inside had been eaten away by the black hole, and the mountainous activity was at its peak as the crust slowly disintegrated.
The few humans still there were only backwards wizards and witch with enough power to have had their houses warded – for all of them, it meant that their houses had already been warded by a powerful ancestor: most "intelligent" life had fled the planet a long time ago.
However, as they were huddled against each other at their manors' windows, watching the end of the world in awe, they witnessed something strange.
In a giant lurch of rock, a large ball of alabaster was thrown in the air, only to hover before hitting the ground.
And then, everything stopped. Sound stilled, and the ground stopped heaving.
And, suddenly, everything moved.
It was slow at first, but quickly reached astronomical proportions as the nearby Sun was reduced to a tiny little star in the sky. The whole planet moved, and had exited its orbit, as though it was launched by a star-size bat.
They saw stars moving along at tremendous speeds.
And, a slowed heartbeat later, they were in another galaxy.
And there were giants near the alabaster sphere.
A snake-like giant with feathers on its back, and a human-looking one with fire for hair and eyes.
"Tonatiuh, my friend?"
"I believe it is time."
"Yes, time it is. Time for the last rebirth."
"No need for portentous words, my friend." chided the snake-like god.
His Sun-related counterpart shivered. "I know, I know. Can you get on with it? I have work to do, here, you know? To restart the furnace, so to speak…"
"Alright." A pause, while four eyes looked at the sphere intently. "He's badly damaged."
"Yes, again. But we need him, or you know what will happen to mankind."
The two gods went silent for some time, repeating a vision they had had recently. A vision where spiritual viruses were eating away the reality in which lived the gods, the very structure binding the universe as a whole. Viruses in the shape of cruciforms…
"Let's start." Quetzalcoatl spoke suddenly, awakening from the dire vision. "Open." he spoke sharply, while his friend tapped the top of the alabaster's sphere.
Cracked like an egg, the magical prison started to leak energy, but the Sun god cupped his hands around it and it flew to his hands. When his hands opened, the only thing in them was a mummified body, barely living.
"Arise." the snake-like god spoke again, while his friend used the excess energy he had just had to morph the body into something else.
The body, renewed by the energy, stood in a graceful movement, before blinking. "Who…"
"We're your friends, Harry."
He shook his head. "Who am I?"
A long pause.
"I haven't envisioned that." Tonatiuh said, clearly confused.
"Neither did I." his friend added. "But we have both foreseen him acting off his free will…"
"…on this Earth, after we repair it…"
"…and then elsewhere."
"Can we give him some help if he doesn't remember?" the Sun god asked.
"We aren't supposed to. These are his last steps towards elevation. That had been decided."
"Then I suppose that we'll leave him here, and get to work to repair this wretched planet."
"I suppose too."
With that, an amnesic Harry Potter was left on Earth while the two gods worked to repair the damage done to Earth. With time, he re-learnt things from the remaining magic-users and their books.
In the 150 years he spent there, he didn't age, and some of the locals thought he was a robot – these wizards didn't know much in technology, and they though that human-looking robots were easy to make. Not knowing better, he accepted their point of view.
When the last of the locals died, he applied the notion of Apparation to other books he had read in the collapsed Muggles libraries, especially astronomy and farcasting, to guide his steps through time and space. After training hard, he was finally ready for his first interplanetary jump.
Having taken the coordinates from the indicated Divination spells, he took off...
...and stopped right in the middle of his pathway.
He was in the centre of a small village, which he hadn't foreseen. And everything, including the houses themselves, had an ethereal tinge.
Several persons exited the houses and, while others returned inside with a disgruntled face, others came forward with a large smile.
He looked around him. "Persons" wasn't quite the name for the people around him. Some had curious attributes, most of them being different. Only a few seemed really human. Among them, a man came forward. With each step, his face and body changed, until he stopped right in front of him. Looking like a carbon copy of himself.
It was Blake.
Harry Potter, having spend the last 150 years in a kind of mental purgatory, was now considered apt to elevation. After a moving ritual, and after receiving numerous memories from Blake and Quetzalcoatl, Harry spend a relatively long time there.
Like Blake, who had stopped only for Harry's elevation, his wanderlust struck again. The two of them had been assigned the same divine powers, which they shared. Much like gods like Janus, they shared an initial spark, while being quite different.
Blake helped the gods fight the AIs out, using his metamorphic powers to disguise himself as a blade-wielding human-like construct – the Shrike. At the same time, Harry tried to find people able to do magic in the human population, helping them at some point.
In that regard, Blake had given him ideas. His belated twin had kept track of the card game he had helped initiate, and he had often used magic on them during his fights in the divine plane of existence – in the older deities' mind, newly-elevated deities were considered as kids, and that view was frequently reinforced by the fights erupting among the "newbies". Harry did the same, using the land cards to help pioneers terraform the terrain faster.
They both helped Raul Endymion and Aenae, as the young couple extracted the TechnoCore's claws from the Religion shared by most of the humans of that time.
Much later, a holy war would push the machines to the brink of extinction. That war, called the Butlerian Jihad, was the starting point for a civilization centered on the humanity. However, despite getting rid of a crutch, that civilization got itself another, in the name of Arrakis: the only planet on which they could find a substance allowing fast and secure intergalactic travel... and prescience: the Spice.
They found that descendants of certain lines had unusual abilities when exposed to the Spice. Some died horrible deaths during that time. Others were thought of as gods. Such was the case with Leto II, who ruled the empire with a hand of steel in a glove of worm skin... for four millenia.
When he died, the political shock pushed many humans out of the empire, in search for a better place – incidentally, that had been Leto's reason for allowing himself to be caught and killed. What the supreme ruler hadn't envisioned, though, was that the migrating humans would return with fear in their belly.
The Ousters, able to do magic and technology for millenia of relative peace, had used the Metamorphmagus gene to its fullest, and had adapted to the harsh conditions of outer space. They had evolved far from the planetary humans, and their very body was now completely different. Without being elevated as gods, they were still the ultimate in human evolution, since they were able to live on the outskirts of the physical universe, on the border with the divine plane.
In the same way the AIs had been scared to find sentient life in the dark matter, the humans had deemed that border uninhabitable, and had fled back to their little planets.
They chose to be living, and not to be alive.
There, to be or not to be,
That is the question, dear fellows.
It is also the end, be
Aware that nothing follows.
There! Done, at last! I'm sorry if it seems rushed. I simply didn't have the time needed to immerge myself in it. I hope you liked the numerous references along the way.
Now, I'll do my best to continue my other stories. I do have ideas for them. You'll see...