AN: Well, here it is. Chapter I of Empire's End. Now, before the flames come, and I'm sure they will, let me remind you that I only accept those devised as constructive criticism, not childish taunts and/or insults. That being said, enjoy!

PS: I forgot to make this clear. Voldemort isn't alive in either DW:EP or DW:EE



From: "The Empire's Darkest Hour," by John Clark

Excerpt from Chapter 3, "Precedents"

"…Among the precedents to the Dark Times is the Fall of Fort Valour, which heralded the times to come, even if contemporaries had no idea of the specifics…

...littered with bodies...

...mutilated...beyond all recognition...

...not ten miles out of London...

declared as the biggest catastrophe in Imperial military history, it would nonetheless be overshadowed by events to come…"


Imperial War Ministry—A week later...

Harry was in a gloomy mood. It had been a week since the Fort Valour Massacre, and still the gloom that had hit him since he found out about it had not left him.

But then, it had shocked the rest of his contemporaries as well. No one had expected the sudden strike; not on an Imperial garrison. Not on Fort Valour.

But it had happened nonetheless, and now Harry sat at the inevitable meeting that tried to deal with the backlash from the catastrophic event.

"—this clearly shows that we must increase garrison sizes!" came one loud opinion.

"Bollocks! A large garrison can be killed off just as easily as a small one can!" came the quick, condescending reply.

"—must enact harsher patrols in known Dark sectors!"

"—seek out the remaining bases and—"

"—execute the whole bloody lot!"

"Enough"

The single word quieted the officers at the table, making Harry smirk internally as he watched Field Marshall Lord Victor Irons single-handedly silence over twenty babbling officers, most of which outranked Harry. In fact, it miffed many of them that a Lieutenant-Colonel would be present at a meeting where only Generals were permitted.

Lord Irons cast a glare at the every officer on the table save Harry, who he knew had stayed quiet throughout the shouting match.

"Gentlemen," he intoned in his deep baritone voice, "this is getting us nowhere. The enemy has decided to show us his capabilities and now we must strike back lest we appear weak. Any suggestions?"

One of the generals leaned forward, and Irons nodded at him.

"Lord Irons, I, and several of my colleagues agree, that perhaps exacting more stringent laws on Dark Wizards would allow our forces to carry out their duties more effectively, without having to worry about the bureaucratic red tape," suggested the man. "In addition, we would like to suggest that an agreement be made with the Ministry to have them execute their laws more efficiently." Many heads along the table nodded at this. Irons said nothing.

Irons looked around the table. "Any objections to this proposal?" he asked. When no one spoke, he drifted his eyes towards Harry. He trusted and respected the boy. Not just anyone could rise to Lieutenant-Colonel by the age of 16. "Potter? Any comments?"

Harry gave Irons a calculating look before sighing softly. "Sir, with all due respect to the generals, I have to disagree with the plan on the basis of several reasons," he stated. Irons gave him a nod, which Harry took as a 'go on' sign.

"Sir, our laws, as they are, are already very exacting against Dark Wizards. Indeed, despite the bureaucratic red tape, it has given our forces powers that are, in general, not accorded to any army unless in a time of martial law. To make our laws even more stringent would alienate our supporters and potential even invite rebellion and sedition from passive detractors," he elaborated. "As it is, my lord, we cannot fight yet another front, and especially not one which would take away any righteousness in our cause. If we proceed with the current plan and decide to confront the populace, I fear we will be inviting open rebellion."

"Are you suggesting we are not going through rebellion right now, Colonel?" asked one of the more level-headed generals.

Harry shook his head. "I realize the present situation may seem like a rebellion, general, but if we are honest with ourselves, this is more of a minor insurgency, as compared to other rebellions the Empire has gone through," reasoned Harry, "However, because it is not a rebellion is no reason to make it one."

Irons nodded. That was a good point. "You said you had other points, Potter?"

Harry nodded. He started tapping the pen in his hand against the table; a sign that he was thinking as he was talking. "The plan proposed by the general would also fail, in my honest opinion, because it puts faith, too much faith, in the Ministry of Magic. My lord, we have proven once and again how incompetent and corrupt the Ministry is. At very best, the Ministry would agree at face-value, make a few minor arrests, then publicly announce the threat contained, until the next massive Death Eater attack proves them wrong. And by then, we've lost yet another fort and need a garrison's worth of body-bags."

Irons nodded again, while many of the generals started whispering amongst themselves. Most seemed impressed, some seemed reluctant in admitting the reasoning sound. The general that had proposed the measures, however, refused to back down.

"I expect this means you have a better idea, then, Colonel?" asked the man, his pride wounded as the junior officer ripped apart the arguments holding his suggestion together.

Harry, to the man's dismay, nodded. "I do indeed, general," he stated, gaining Irons' attention again. "My suggestion is to increase our intelligence capacities. Recruit spies from wherever we can in known Dark sectors. Possibly even infiltrate the Death Eaters themselves. The problem with Fort Valour," and here everyone flinched, "was that we didn't know they where coming. If we wish to avoid another bloody massacre, or acting like paranoid maniacs, we must start knowing more," Here, Harry paused. He didn't know how the room would react to his next suggestion, and he'd already heard the plan he had in mind wasn't generally well received in the upper branches.

Irons seemed to catch onto the younger man's reluctance. "Is there something else, Potter?" he asked. He was genuinely curious, too. The boy seemed to have a good military mind, and not just everyone rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel based on merit alone by the age of 17.

Harry sighed. "Sir, it is of my opinion that we should increase the funding to Project Archangel," he announced. The room immediately stilled before exploding into shouts of protests and scoffs.

Project Archangel was a highly debated topic within the Imperial forces. Its founding scientists had put forth the idea of combining magic and modern aviation technology to produce what would essentially be "airships"—massive, magic-propelled that, though water-based, they had short-term flight capabilities, thus making them ships that would essentially be able to get anywhere anytime..

Of course, the Imperial Navy spurned the project, seeing it as an Army encroachment attempt into their territory. The Imperial Air Service, however, loved the idea, although were a bit cautious on the fighter launching proposals, since it would be tricky for even the most veteran pilots to land a fighter in a moving hangar. The Imperial Army, on the other hand, was split. Some liked it, others didn't.

Irons was the first to regain his voice after the announcement. "Project Archangel is not an Imperial-wide favoured project, Potter. Some very influential people in the Navy will never allow it to go through. Why do you think we should fund it?"

Harry sighed. He stopped tapping the table with his pen and instead began twirling it in his fingers. "My lord, the airships the project promises to create would allow us to deploy our army forces practically anywhere on short intervals," he began, "In addition, as everyone here knows, mass portkey travel makes for a very chaotic army, which would take away our disciplinary advantage over the enemy. Furthermore, the airships would allow for a new form of tactics: an air-ambush, if you will."

"That doesn't take away the Navy's disdain for it, however," pointed our Irons. Harry nodded.

"I'm aware of that, my lord. In that respect, let the Navy pilot the ships and have overall command of them, while the Air Service takes up pilot staffing."

"And ourselves?"

"I'm not sure, Lord Irons. I am, of course, open to suggestions."

Irons frowned slightly at that. "I cannot approve of a project unless there is a solid basis for it, Colonel," he reminded the youth. "Do you even have comprehensive schematics drawn up for the prototype?"

Harry shook his head. "I'm afraid not, my lord," he admitted somewhat regretfully. Despite this, however, he pressed on. "However, if you can give me this assignment on a full-time basis, I'm sure we could get something solid going in no time."

One of the generals scoffed openly. "Preposterous!" sneered the general. "Project Archangel was shelved for a damn good reason! We should leave it there!" he continued. "Or, better yet, just scrape it altogether!"

Several generals gave murmurs of agreement at that, but Irons remained silent.

"Gentlemen, please!" protested Harry. "The reason Archangel was shelved was its comparatively high production and research cost!"

"Exactly! Why should we spend money on something as far-fetched as an airship?"

"Innovation is the key!" argued Harry. "Our enemy is learning to counter our weapons, so we must stay one step ahead!"

"Why not invest in weapons production, then?" ventured another general. Several murmurs of assent went around the table.

"Weapons production is a good idea, I agree," said Harry. "However, researching upgrades for our field arms will only ever result in single advances! The research invested in Archangel could potentially be applied in every field known to the military and to civilian technology!"

This time, several of the general shifted—a sign that they were being convinced. He just needed to push just a bit more.

"Archangel was costly in its time, I will freely admit that," pressed on Harry. "However, that was nineteen-seventy-five! Technology has far progressed since that time, in both the magical and Muggle worlds! Costs would have halved in the past thirty years!"

Though he kept his eyes on Irons, Harry could see in his periphery that the generals seemed to become convinced of his argument.

"Gentlemen, Archangel is the next generation in warfare. Humanity has conquered the seas and the land, but it has never truly conquered the skies. Why not, then, allow the Empire to once more become the greatest military power in the world by laying claim to the elusive kingdom above?"

Finally, the generals nodded, and Irons smiled grimly.

"Very well, Colonel Potter. You've made a good case," ceded Irons. He opened the black leather folder in front of him and looked at the upcoming Army schedule for a moment before flicking his eyes back onto Harry.

"The final round of Irish negotiations to admit them into the Empire will begin on August of next year. You have until that day to get a prototype working."

"Potter, please stay," ordered Irons as the rest of the council walked out of the room.

The young Potter heir gave a quick glance to the door before turning his attention to Irons.

"My lord?" he asked.

Irons was watching him above steepled fingers in his chair. The old Field Marshall had not moved since the end of the meeting, by which time they'd agreed to recommend to the Imperial Centre the increase in Military Intelligence's budget. New drafts had been fleshed out for placing additional troops in all garrisons, near or far from the Imperial Capital.

Irons gave Harry a searching gaze for a moment before breaking apart his touching hands. He put one arm on his armrest and with the other began tapping on the table.

"You've put me in a sort of quandary, Colonel," noted Irons.

"Sir?"

"The generals," replied Irons, giving a nudge in the closed door's direction. Not seeing any understanding from Harry, Irons sighed. "The generals are asking me to remove you from the council, Colonel."

Harry paled. "I…see, sir."

"Unfortunately, they have provided valid arguments, and many of them are, as you well know, well-connected with members of Parliament," continued the old Field Marshall, ignoring Harry's comment.

Harry hung his head, feeling somewhat defeated. "I…understand, sir."

Irons blinked at him. "Understand what? I've not finished," remarked the older man. Harry looked at his superior somewhat oddly as the older man continued. "The problem with their objections, however, is that if I let you go, I lose a good voice on my council."

"Thank you, sir," mumbled Harry as he bowed his head slightly in thanks. Irons ignored the gesture and plod on.

"Therefore, the only possible way to keep you on this council is to promote you," concluded the Field Marshall, stunning Harry.

"Wha-" stumbled Harry as he felt his jaw drop at the announcement. "But, sir-"

Irons raised a hand to stop any protest. "I understand that no promotion for such reason would ever get approved, which is why I'm adding something else to your duties."

"Sir?" asked Harry, confused.

"The Governor General of Northern Ireland's military commander is retiring next month," explained Irons. "Now, ordinarily, I would assign some other general to the post, but with the upcoming negotiations, I fear the older generals will let old grudges interfere with their duties. As such, I am appointing you as Lord Vicks' head of military."

Harry felt his eyes bulge. The assignment of Northern Ireland was a make-or-break assignment that was usually reserved for older generals who were far more used to dealing with events such as the sensitive situation of Northern Ireland. For him to be given the opportunity…well, it was unthinkable.

Almost unconsciously, Harry pinched himself and thus determined that he was not, in fact dreaming. Irons laughed.

"Indeed," remarked the older man before absently signing a paper in front of him and passing it to Harry. "Those are your new orders. Your promotion will occur in a week or so, I assume, since only a general can be the head of military in Northern Ireland."

Harry shakily took the document and nodded his head in thanks. "T-Thank you, my lord," he thanked the man affably. Irons waved away the thanks.

"You're a good officer, Potter," explained Irons. The Field Marshall suddenly narrowed his eyes and leaned forward. "However, let me make something clear, Potter. I am taking a great risk, both in my career and personal life, in going around the other generals to give you this funding and posting. As such, I readily expect that you not disappoint me and show me that my trust in you has not been unfounded."

Harry nodded stiffly. "I will not let you down, Field Marshall."

Irons gave a grim smile. "I hope so, Potter. For all our sakes, I hope so."