Interview with the Slytherin Childe
Part V: The Other Minister
John Major, just beginning what would be nearly a seven year term of office as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, found he'd fallen asleep at his desk, yet again. He yawned and cracked his neck and made to stand up. The briefing documents were an utter bore. And the appointments documents that needed signing could wait until tomorrow. And the issues he really needed to address, well, he didn't have a clue where to start with them.
When he stood up, though, he found himself looking into the eyes of a child. A child who wore a bloody great snake around his neck.
Surprised beyond all measure, John Major flopped back down into his seat.
The boy plucked a couple of documents off the Prime Minister's desk. Memos detailing the strange occurrences of the last few days. All the ducks and sheep dying in Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex yesterday. Lakes, streams, and ponds turning blood red in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, and Dorset – in addition to the Thames still being polluted after nearly a week. More boils appearing on everyone in Sutherland and Caithness. The bizarre infestation of frogs in Cheshire, Lancashire, and Yorkshire. The deaths of the firstborn sons in Orkney and Shetland. The Archbishop of Canterbury trying to proclaim that the ancient plagues of Egypt hadn't suddenly reappeared on British soil. A dozen newspaper clippings laughing at the Archbishop – and wondering what in the bloody world was going on.
"I see you've been getting my messages," the boy said in a quiet voice.
The boy smiled and nodded. "I hope it's scary enough…"
"I've got looting in London, Manchester, Aberdeen, and two dozen other cities. I've got Biblical maniacs preaching Armageddon. And how in the blazes did you get in here, past all my security…"
The child with the snake drew out a slim wooden stick. "Oh, you're one of those. I've only ever met Fudge before… So, this is all your doing?" He kept his calmness wrapped around him as he began planning how to extract himself from this situation. The boy didn't seem like the assassin sort, they just started blasting away.
"It's actually your doing, Mister Major, to a great extent. You gave the wizards access to several of your stronger explosive munitions…"
"I most certainly did not."
He was pressing the buttons underneath his desk to signal his security team to come in and aid him. He was doing everything to keep this terrifying little child talking. He wasn't an assassin but he still might start blasting away with his little wooden stick – the child with a snake wrapped around him seemed to have a lose relationship with reality. Wizards. The word made John Major shiver a bit; he was still angry that Baroness Thatcher hadn't seen fit to inform him. Bah! Wizards. He'd met that bizarre little man Fudge, but obviously this child was something different entirely.
"You did, Mister Major. You authorized your Ministry of Defence to give Fudge and his people some bombs. I have a document with your signature on it." The boy pushed the paper across the table. John Major examined it. It was genuine, it seemed, although he didn't remember signing something like it.
"I don't remember…"
"I'm sure you don't. Maybe they took over your mind and made you do it; or perhaps they convinced you to do it then cleared your mind afterwards…"
"Your kind, you can do those things?"
The Prime Minister kept tapping away at the button. He was feeling fear, debilitating fear, in every ounce of his body.
"They're not coming for you, Mister Major. Everyone in the building is asleep, even you were until I woke you. In addition, no electronic signals can pass into or out of this place as long as I'm here. So, you're stuck with me until I'm finished with our conversation."
The Prime Minister almost slumped back in his seat.
"What do you want? You've obviously got me as a hostage for some reason…"
"No, you're not a hostage. You're a participant in a peace conference."
"Maybe preemptive peace conference is the more correct term, as we're not yet at war. Although you'll find that the civilians and generals who cooperated with the wizards in supplying those bombs have all had terrible, fatal accidents earlier this evening. You'll need to find a slew of new junior ministers for the Ministry of Defence, I'm afraid, but it's rather the least of your problems, I'd say…"
The Prime Minister just cradled his head in his hands.
"Here is one option. You tell your people that they have forty days to evacuate the British Isles otherwise they will all die horrible, painful deaths. Point to the blood-filled river and ponds, point to the masses of frogs, flies, and dead livestock. Your end here is coming, Mister Major. The end of all humans, magical or otherwise."
The Prime Minister spluttered.
"Or, option two. You can hide the truth from your people or try to fight me in the time I've given you. Then, when forty days have passed, you will witness a wholesale slaughter of everyone you ever once ruled."
"Bullets can kill you, boy," the Prime Minister slung back.
"Bullets, radiation, chemical weapons – none of this can stop my army, Mister Major. You're a fool if you think so, but I'd be glad to demonstrate. Give me the name of a town here that you dislike and I'll make it and its inhabitants disappear by the morning, if you'd like."
The older man swallowed even though his throat felt parched and itchy. He could feel his mind and body aging.
"Why? This seems extreme – cruel beyond imagination…"
"I've been betrayed by your kind too many times, Mister Major. I was abandoned before I was six years of age. I beg you not to try the pity card with me. And, as for wizards, they abandoned me with your kind. Their wars made me an orphan, too. The only ones to ever help me out were my friends, my colleagues, the serpents of Great Britain. I'll turn this island into the greatest preserve ever seen, for them, for all animals…and for myself."
The boy, the one with a strange looking snake wrapped around his shoulders, was absolutely insane. Evicting a country full of people, nearly sixty million people, to turn an island into a nature preserve. Ludicrous. Impossible. Political suicide even.
"I don't think the British people would take to being dislocated en masse like that. It's just not feasible…"
"Politicians are only kept around to make impossible things possible – and even then most of them fail at it. So, don't fail at this, Mister Major. The consequences will be real and very brutal. Do I need to make a demonstration?"
The Prime Minister just sadly swung his head from side to side. He was trying to think of compromises he could suggest – anything short of trying to abandon his country.
"Why can't you just expel the witches and wizards, the ones who wronged you…"
"I am expelling them, along with you. Equal treatment for all. Think of it this way: This is a gift from me to you, the gift of forewarning. You and your people refused to hand over a nuclear weapon to the wizards who wanted one, instead giving them eight conventional bombs. You helped them attack me – and anger me – but you did not let them destroy me and irradiate half of the United Kingdom. For that small act of intelligence, I am telling you my plans instead of just destroying all of you without warning as I had planned. You see, I can be a merciful sort when the mood strikes…"
The Prime Minister had no idea how this sort of treatment could be considered merciful.
"You're here for a reason, child. I think it's not to deliver an ultimatum. I think you want another alternative, a way to talk yourself from this course. We can negotiate. We can find you something you want, if you truly do command the kind of army you claim…"
"Feel free to talk yourself into believing all this. I came only because it struck me as slightly more honest to give you and everyone else a fighting chance. In the event you do not take my generous offer, I wanted to see the whites of my enemy's eyes before I'm forced to kill you. I'll remember your face this way…"
The Prime Minister had no doubts that the boy meant every word. He was the leader of sixty million people, though, so he plunged forward. There was a way to salvage this. He'd been in Parliament through much of the worst of the Irish Republican Army. There was a way through this impending disaster, too.
"What do I call you?"
"You may call me the Slytherin Childe."
Harry just stood there, stroking the ridge behind his snake's head, smiling. He knew he was going to win, no matter what John Major managed to do or say.
Rita was cowering on the floor of the former Potions laboratory. The Great Purge had just begun. She'd just heard the Hogwarts ghosts discussing it. She clutched her piles of parchment to her and tried to keep on writing. However, her quill wasn't cooperating well because of all her involuntary shaking.
She expected more muggle bombs any moment. They'd last tried bombing four days ago. The earth had shook like she'd never felt before, but no energy had penetrated the wards.
From what she'd heard through various sources she'd cultivated from inside the castle – okay, it was house elves who were still out and about in the world – millions of muggles had left, but even more millions had remained behind.
And today was the promised day of the Great Purge. Rita's book was only half written, up through when Harry Potter began learning from Tom Riddle's horcrux spirit. She still didn't know why she was writing it or for what purpose. She wrote, she transcribed pensieve memories, she did everything she could to survive. She'd long abandoned her plots and plans for smuggling her notes out.
She wanted now only to smuggle her life out of this horror story.
True, she was treated well here. But how was a handful of strange ghost-like creatures supposed to withstand the fury of millions of muggles and thousands of witches and wizards who'd opted to remain within the United Kingdom? No, it was impossible. Hogwarts would fall; the muggles would win, they'd use their vicious weapons to end the whole struggle.
The 'cleansing' of the British Isles would never happen. Rita would stake her life on it.
She stayed as flat against the stone floor as she could. She tried to continue writing. She'd finish her work as best she could, even if she'd placed her bets on the other side coming out victorious. Really! Millions compared to an army of a hundred fifty some ghost-like wraiths. Not a difficult thing to compute.
Harry had had a busy forty days since confronting the Muggle Prime Minister. He'd sent a brief letter to the Ministry of Magic offering them the chance to leave as well. Then he'd begun setting up, but not engaging, powerful ward stones throughout every corner of the United Kingdom. Ancient stones that had been within the Forbidden Forest for a thousand years turned out to be remarkably well saturated with magic – and perfect for what Harry had been doing.
Harry and his army of horcrux wraithes had paid particular attention to the Muggle military installations. Bombs were silently sabotaged. Weapons broken in impossible ways.
And, every single day, they supplied increasing terror, increasing reasons for the Muggles and the magical folk to leave.
And, finally, the countdown was over.
Harry's Horrors, as he thought of them, began in London. They were purging, but they weren't killing. Stunning and dumping. He'd threatened death for the Muggles, witches, wizards, and squibs of the world, but he did not plan for it. He wanted a clean countryside, not one filled with rotting corpses. No, let them embrace the fear of death to encourage them to leave – but punish them with only permanent banishment.
The first hour's lot of purged would find themselves waking up in thirty hours in a series of fields outside Perugia in Umbria. That was the great thing about an army of horcruxes – they were invincible and had nearly an unlimited well of magic to draw upon. They didn't need to stop for sleeping or eating or anything else. They were the perfect soldiers.
Harry himself had returned to 10 Downing Street. John Major hadn't left his country, although he'd sent his wife away. The Queen was still here, but she'd bundled off most of the royal family. These high profile targets were ones Harry had called for himself.
Harry first cast the sleeping ward over the building. He caught a glint of other wards flickering here, too. The Prime Minister had obviously asked some witches and wizards for assistance.
Harry Potter, known around the world already as the Slytherin Childe, pulled a small snake out of his pocket and pushed it through the window he'd just opened. "Tell me if anyone is still awake."
Harry continued laying runes around the storied home – and around surrounding buildings, too. Perhaps the wizards had done something to ensure they could remain awake even though a sleeping ward. So Harry layered a few other items to make sure the people inside would be truly incapacitated, without harming any animals.
The snake returned minutes later. "I counted twelve asleep and two, with magic sticks, were still awake inside."
Harry nodded and thanked the snake. He hissed into the night and a pair of young basilisks, whom Harry had hatched and raised himself, slithered forward.
"Petrify anyone with a wand or a gun…"
"What's a gun?"
"Metallic looking. Weapon of muggles."
Harry gave the pair of his basilisks ten minutes to accomplish their task before he opened the door. All sorts of sirens, muggle-made and magical, went off but no one came storming down the stairs. Harry waved his steelwood and augurey feather wand and the world was silent again.
Harry found his basilisks on the third floor along with two petrified wizards, Aurors by the look of them. Harry looked in the Prime Minister's office and then searched the rest of the house. John Major was asleep on the desk in one of his aide's offices. A pitiful attempt at security by obscurity.
Harry slapped a small piece of paper onto John Major's forehead – a portkey. The sleeping man left seconds later for his own cell at Hogwarts Castle.
He spent the next couple of minutes placing portkeys on everyone else: these, however, were banished to a more distant locale. The two dozen who had been guarding Number 10 Downing Street awoke many hours later on a dirty street in Cusco, high in the Andes Mountains. It took months, however, to restore the Aurors who'd been petrified.
He then led one of his horcrux-wraith teams to a small town in Surrey to begin the demolition work there. There were still many millions of people to evict from his island, but he thought it prudent to demonstrate the true symbolism of what was to occur.
Harry set his wraiths to knocking down and disintegrating all the homes on Privet Drive, save for Number Four. That one – the earliest home Harry could remember when he tried – he saved for himself. He pulled out his fire wand and began burning the home, wall by wall, room by room.
He was trying to set things right, even though he knew they would never be square. No, things done were done. Memories – unlike homes – did not burn, they were not flammable.
The act of physical destruction merely felt good. However, brief happy memories did little to counteract years of miserable, painful ones.
Rita cried herself to sleep. The little monster had sent back her third draft – and had added a 'suggestion' this time. "Remove your ridiculous opinions from the book or I'll feed you to Serah."
That was how she wrote. A few facts, carelessly chosen, then liberally flavored with opinion. The boy wanted the impossible – he wanted facts only, little interpretation, and next to no sharing of opinions. It was dry, boring – no one would voluntarily want to read it if she wrote it that way. And it would be way too short to be a real book.
She cursed a few times before falling completely into the darkness of sleep.
In the weeks that followed, the Great Purge moved forward at a rapid – but never fast enough – pace. Never stopping teams of wraiths banished every remaining muggle, witch, wizard, and squib. Harry and the remaining humans he controlled through horcruxes – the Flamels, Mr. Slughorn, Ollivander, Gwenog Jones, and a few others – began the process of disintegrating much of the detritus left behind. Automobiles returned to their component elements, as did houses and tall buildings. Harry threw seeds of plants and trees over every cleansed inch and instructed the remaining house elves to tend them.
Within five years, there would be little evidence that millions of men and women had ever inhabited these lands.
But the masterwork came as Harry Potter finally activated the thousands of massive ward stones he'd located all across the island. In that moment, when all that magic flickered into effect, the entirety of the British Isles disappeared from view, from mind, from memory.
It was the largest installation of a ward ever attempted – the Fidelius Charm, as popularly known, was actually a warding technique. And one that Harry had just employed in the largest show of magical might in a thousand years.
Phase two began a week after the wards went up.
Harry's Horrors began tracking down every sort of magical animal, particularly snakes, and offering them new homes. Few accepted at first, but they were told they would be asked again in the future.
The Horrors also replenished the full spectrum of the wildlife population by 'borrowing' from other nations. Deer, rabbits, voles, foxes, and badgers; nonmagical animals of all shapes and sizes. Dragons were once again welcomed inside the Island, as Harry found he could speak with them. Occamy made it a home; runespoors, too.
The Slytherin Childe finally felt at home.
Rita Skeeter, Cornelius Fudge, and John Major landed unconscious behind a bar in Barcelona seven months after the Great Purge began. After they were discovered by Muggles – and Major was, of course, recognized for who he was – it took nearly a week for the magical authorities to extricate Rita and Cornelius.
Then it was time for Rita to talk.
Her problem? She had nothing to say. She knew nothing at all about where she'd been.
"That's ridiculous, Ms. Skeeter. Surely you must know something…"
"I know I don't have my wand or my quill and notebook. I know I woke up scantily dressed about a week ago curled up with the deposed British Prime Minister and Minister of Magic. I don't remember the last dozen stories you showed me with my name attached to them. That, gentlemen, is what I know…"
"Give me Veritaserum. Find a Legilimens to probe my mind. Hire someone gifted in breaking memory charms. I'd personally like to know what I've been doing for the last few months. I'd be grateful if you could tell me what I've been up to…"
The people interrogating her weren't in the mood to be helpful.
"You were in Britain after that secrecy ward went up. Do you remember where it is? How to get back, that sort of thing?"
Rita Skeeter closed her eyes and thought on it. Eventually she shook her head.
"I remember that there is a Britain. I remember the house I grew up in, but I can't place it in context to anything else, not even what city it was within…"
More than one sigh rippled around the room.
"What have you been doing, Ms. Skeeter? And why are you still alive? If you were there after the Great Purge, you must have been helping him – that blasted Slytherin Childe – in some way. Tell us now!"
But she had nothing to say. And, eventually, the charms experts and the mind arts practitioners came in to attempt to open her mind. And nothing gave. She spent the rest of her rather lengthy life under lock and key. No one could prove she was a collaborator in the Great Purge – just as no one could prove she wasn't. It wasn't safe to leave someone like her in the general public. Not safe at all.
Rita wondered nearly every day if this was what had been intended for her. If so, it seemed crueler than just killing her. Far more so. Alive, but imprisoned only for the sake of her lacking a memory. A life restored to her and taken from her at the same instant her memory had been taken; positively Slytherin.
A twenty year old Slytherin Childe closed the massive tome he'd been writing in – the Potter Family Grimoire. He was discovering new branches of magic, plus branches forgotten to time or ignored because they originated with snakes or dragons, at an astonishing rate. Every discovery was written down, everything catalogued.
Harry Potter had discovered that fourteen thousand square miles of land – and only a single castle residing within the borders – made for quite a perfect testing laboratory. Plants lost to the British Isles were returning; magic returned to nearly every corner of the land, where it had once been hacked away by encroaching muggles; three colonies of Sirens had broken through the outer wards – but not the nastiest of the secrecy wards – and settled in around the Orkneys. Goblins had gone back to their first love, digging tunnels and scouting for minerals and other interesting resources. But they had turned what little was left of Diagon Alley into a goblin village.
Centaurs and their animosity had prompted the extension of the Purge toward their race. They'd all been banished in a single evening to Tierra del Fuego. But examining their former home had taught Harry some rather intriguing centaur warding schemes. Different from wizarding and goblin versions, but powerful and unexpected in their own ways.
Horace Slughorn had asked to perform his service as a wraith, so Harry had killed his mortal body. And he'd rediscovered several lines of inquiry into necromancy because of it.
He needed to ensure the ongoing magical security of his Island, so he'd had to work out how to auto-renew the magics surrounding and penetrating the ward stones even when they were placed in definitely non-magical areas. The research there on self-perpetuating runic ward structures would have earned him an Order of Merlin under the old, inept government. Laughable. But it had many follow-on applications. Harry maintained listening posts throughout the world, stretching thousands of miles in every direction, and the wards never needed maintenance. And would likely never be detected, even though they were located inside the highest levels of magical and nonmagical governments in every country. Harry Potter wanted to ensure he knew if people were coming to attack him.
There were hundreds of other small things he and his horcrux wraiths had discovered. All of which he documented in the Potter Family Grimoire.
And that led to the final problem: reestablishing the Potter Family. Harry was evidently the last of a very long line. But Ollivander had been the one to suggest that Harry hadn't been the only unwanted orphan in the world.
So the horcrux wraiths began a semi-annual hunt across the globe for magical orphan children. And the former Hogwarts Castle began to fill up with the sounds of laughter and young voices.
The old way hadn't worked – wizards hiding from Muggles, ignoring and fearing them at the same time with Muggles advancing in technology and the wizards stagnating. Perhaps this new way would suffice. One family to an island, a soon-to-be massive family.
Harry had lessons to give in twenty minutes, lessons for his growing children. But he had a few minutes to kill so he re-read the beginning of a familiar section of the Grimoire, a historical section written for him, unknowingly, by Rita Skeeter.
"Harry Potter took up the alias of Slytherin Childe at some point before his eleventh birthday in order to honor the snakes of various species who tended him and befriended him and taught him…"
The words were true and lean and honest. They had almost nothing of the author in them, as was proper. He re-read her brief additions to the Grimoire before adding a few final lines of his own.
"I could have been 'love' or 'kindness' or 'honor' had I been raised in that fashion. But I was 'snake' in my views and actions because they were the ones who loved me, thus I gave people a single chance to make right their mistakes against me, against the innocents in Azkaban, and when they failed, I struck and struck and struck. Eventually I wonder if people will ever learn that the seeming least of their actions can have consequences that ripple or even tear through history. Perhaps not, as most people cannot learn at all."
He closed the book, tucked it away behind the security wards in his little treasure room, and headed out to begin teaching his lessons. These, his children, would learn because they would understand why it was important. And the Potter family would continue on, looking less like its recent past and more like its ancient past. A family of spell researchers and mercenaries, powerful people cloaked in the shadows. The Potters would become great again. And, thus, the world came full circle.