Episode 36: Ten Years After

It was a hot afternoon in late June as Harry Potter swung his modified Honda Insight up into the parking ramp of the Harlem building wherein he had an appointment. The engine, now on electric power only, was whisper-quiet as he pulled it into a vacant spot.

The Harlem Empowerment Zone, created in the 1990s by Presidential decree, had succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams. People and companies that once avoided Harlem now flocked to it, and it was by far the healthiest part of New York City.

Two men in black were already by the car, ready to escort him to his appointment. One was a Secret Service man, the other was part of the building's own security force. Both men were African-American, and both were detailed to guard the man that Harry was about to meet, the man who had made the New Harlem possible.

"Charles Rock, Secret Service," said the older and stockier of the two as he showed Harry his credentials. He had several bulges under his jacket, and, if Harry guessed correctly, a .45 strapped to each ankle, the same way Clarice had taught Harry to wear his.

"Chris Schneider, Harlem Redevelopment Agency," said the younger man, flashing his own badge and ID card. He looked as if he could have been a wide reciever or a quarterback; he had a tall, lithe, quick build, yet not so tall and lithe that he could have played pro basketball.

"Harry Potter, MI5 and MI6," said Harry, his own credentials from both agencies in his right hand. "Nice to meet you. It's an honor to be here."

Both men flashed identical smiles. "It's an honor to work here," said Rock. "Follow us."

Rock and Schneider brought Harry up the elevators to a very-well-appointed office suite. Then, they frisked him from head to toe, leaving him only his wand. Then they left the office, leaving him alone in the presence of the man who had asked to see him.

"Thank you for the invitation, Mr. President," said Harry to the white-haired man who was getting up from his desk and coming to greet Harry, hand outstretched.

"You can just call me 'Bill', Harry," said former President Clinton. "I'm not in the White House anymore."

"Yes, Mr. President."

Bill Clinton laughed until his face turned red.

"Sit down and stay awhile, Harry. I've heard so much about you." He waved a hand towards the liquor cabinet. "Let me fix you a drink while you fill me in on how your guardians managed to defeat Voldemort ten years ago."

Harry leaned forward, his Armani suit crinkling slightly at elbows and shoulders. "Well, Mr. President, it all came about when my uncle was trying to get me committed to an insane asylum..."

"Uncle Harry! Uncle Harry!"

Two children, a boy and his younger sister, came running excitedly to the front door of Offhand Manor, nearly knocking over Dobby, their harrassed-looking house-elf babysitter.

"Hello, Dobby! Hello, James! Hello, Ardelia!" Harry picked a child up in each arm and gave them both kisses on the cheek -- James, being eight, was not yet too old for such 'sissy stuff'. "Where's your mummy and daddy?"

"Out playing in the back," said Ardelia, rolling her blue eyes. She was six years old and acted twelve. "Mummy says she's practicing being an Animagus for the Auror classes she's teaching, but really she's just chasing around Daddy when he's being Padfoot."

"Would Harry Potter like some refreshment?" asked a somewhat breathless Dobby, who after Dr. Lecter's death had reverted to his familiar speech patterns. "Dobby can have a gin and tonic ready in seconds if Harry Potter wishes."

"Just ice water will do for now, thanks, Dobby," said Harry, making his way to the kitchen. "I'll be out in the back with Sirius and Clarice."

And he would have been, too, except that they came inside themselves first.

A large black dog, his coat glossy and well-kept, used a rather dextrous front paw to turn the handle of the kitchen door; once the door was open, he bounded inside. He was followed closely by a lioness, small for her species, yet finely-made and with blue eyes, and a small round mark over one cheekbone, the most beautiful lioness imaginable.

They both transformed at the same time, and Harry found himself looking at Sirius and Clarice Black.

"How goes the new job, Harry?" said Clarice as they sat in the study, drinks in hand. "I'm glad you got into both 5 and 6, though how Jack ever pulled it off, I'll never know. I keep pestering him about it, but he won't tell me."

"I don't know for sure, either," replied Harry, grinning slightly. "But I think that the fellow I went to visit in Harlem last week might have had something to do with it."

"Got to see old Bill, eh?" chuckled Sirius, his blue-black hair gleaming in the magical torchlight. "How was the old codger?"

"Oh, he's really charming and smart. Very interested in how Voldemort met his end, which I told him. Without anyone else present, of course," Harry quickly added, before his godfather's and godmother's faces could even begin to frown.

The talk turned towards the summer and fall of 1995, and the events of that time. Dobby was soon bringing in a second round of drinks, and everyone was starting to unwind a great deal.

"You know," said Sirius abstractedly, almost sheepishly, "I've been carrying around this Bad Thought for years now, that I need to get off of my chest." He looked round at Harry and Clarice, an embarrassed smile on his face. "I've often thought how, even though it was shocking at the time, and still is a tragedy -- well, I've often thought how incredibly lucky it was for our side that McNair went mad and killed Fudge."

Harry and Clarice were silent awhile. Then, slowly, they both nodded in agreement.

"Fudge, bless his pointed little head, was still in denial about Voldemort to the very end," Clarice averred, sipping her Lillet. "He never would have moved against the Dark Lord, much less moved as quickly and decisively as did Arthur and Albus. It was, sad as it is to say it, very lucky for us that dealing with Dementors 24/7 finally blew the fuses in McNair's brain."

"Exactly," replied her husband, cuddling up to her on the leather couch, his free arm around her shoulders. "And his revealing himself to be a Death Eater, right before killing himself -- that convinced even the die-hards that Voldemort really was back. Having the support of the whole wizarding world made it a lot easier for the Ministry to act."

"Yes," said Harry absently. "Yes, it did."

The exterior of Hogwarts had not changed materially since his graduation, Harry thought as he rode his Firebolt Seven into the grounds, but the inner workings certainly had.

Minerva McGonagall was now in charge. Albus Dumbledore had gone to his reward a year after Harry's graduation; the old headmaster had willed himself to live long enough to be assured that the wizarding world was in capable hands; then, when the last of the stray Death Eater cells had been found and destroyed, he allowed himself to go quietly in his sleep. Harry had been one of the speakers at his funeral.

Headmistress McGonagall had made it her mission to watch over the school exactly as Albus would have done. Therefore, and with the express permission of the Board of Governors -- which, now that Lucius Malfoy was gone, was no longer quite so anti-Muggle as it had been -- she allowed the use of Muggle technologies and disciplines. This meant, among other things, that the house-elves were using specially-adapted Cuisinarts in the kitchens, and that Professor Snape could teach the periodic table as well as the twelve uses of dragon's blood.

It was Professor Snape that Harry was going to see now.

Harry shrunk his broomstick down and placed it in his jacket pocket -- he was wearing his standard Muggle business-casual attire, brown chinos and matching jacket, with a collarless black shirt underneath -- and made his way down to the dungeons.

The dungeon corridors were much less damp, and much better-lighted, than during his student days. The sense of foreboding, which had seemed a permanent part of the dungeon's atmosphere, was gone, too.

Soon Harry found himself at Professor Snape's office door. He put his fist to the worn, iron-bound oak -- that, at least, had not changed one bit -- and knocked.

"Harry Potter, is it?" came the familiar velvet-and-vinegar voice from within. "Come in, Potter." The door swung silently inward, and Harry stepped inside.

The jars of preserved beasties still lined the bookshelf walls, but they had to share space with some new, mundane items. Harry recognized the Quick-Fit chemistry lab gear as being similar to that from Lecter's own workshop. A glass Klein bottle sat on
Snape's desk, filled with green liquid and holding down student essays. Books on Muggle chemistry and physics sat next to volumes on hexing and dueling.

The man himself seemed to be impervious to change; he sat behind his desk wearing the familiar black robes, his raven-black hair as yet free of any gray, and with no additional lines in his strongly-carved, hollow-cheeked, hook-nosed face.

Snape inclined his head a fraction of an inch, his version of a courteous bow. "Take a chair, Potter," he said, in a surprisingly neutral voice. He watched quietly as Harry did just that, settling in the one chair that looked at least remotely inviting.

"So, Mr. Potter," Snape said, fixing Harry with a particularly sharp, though not actively hostile, gaze. "You wanted to see me about something."

Harry had long since passed the point when a mere stare from Severus Snape could frighten him. His reply was quick, yet calm. "That I did, sir."

Snape let one of his eyebrows rise. "Perhaps you could be so kind as to tell me why."

The young Auror looked the older man full in the face, unflinching, and shot his thunderbolt:

"I want to know how you and Dr. Lecter managed to bring about the deaths of Walden McNair and Cornelius Fudge."

There were a few different ways that Professor Snape could have reacted to Harry Potter's demand: Rage, indignation, perhaps even a magical or physical attack.

Instead, he let his eyes meet Harry's, and asked quietly: "Are you asking me in your official capacity, Mr. Potter?"

"No, Professor Snape." Harry shifted slightly in his chair, his eyes never leaving the Potions master's face. "You are in no danger of going to Azkaban over this."

He let the ensuing silence hang between them, a palpable, living thing, filled with tension. Two strong-willed men, seeing who would break first, and why.

At length, Professor Snape realised that Harry Potter was not going to leave the room until he had an answer.

Snape leaned back in his desk chair, his eyes softening, losing some of their sharpness. Some undefinable thing -- regret? Resignation? Resolve? -- coloured the features of his angular face.

"For your own curiosity, Mr. Potter?"


Snape gathered a chestful of air and expelled it almost soundlessly. Harry didn't interrupt; he knew that he was about to have what he had come to get.

"It was, of course, when your new guardians were making the rounds of Hogwarts, ingratiating themselves with the faculty and other staff members. Miss Stellanova had gone off with McGonagall -- Minerva had taken to her directly she saw her -- leaving Dr. Reader alone with me."

Harry's eyes widened. "He must have already known he was an Anti-Magus, to be willing to risk that."

"Obviously." Snape's attitude was sardonic, but not guarded; once he had decided to speak, he intended to speak fully. "I soon discovered that for myself, when he revealed to me that he knew far more about my past than I found comfortable. I'll never forget the feeling I had when I saw three successive Memory Charms wash over him without any effect whatsoever." He smiled thinly at Harry, a sidewise razor-cut in his face, before continuing.

"Dr. Reader -- or, rather, Dr. Lecter, as he revealed to me that day; he only thought it fair that I know that much about him -- had a very good grasp of the political situation, as it stood with the Malfoys, Fudge and McNair. He knew that Voldemort was planning to use the Dementors, under McNair's command, to mount a full-scale assault, one that in all likelihood we could not withstand, even had Hagrid been able to rally the giants in time to our cause.

"In short, he knew that desperate times called for desperate measures."

Harry sat quietly, and nodded at Snape to continue, which, after a moment, he did.

"We found ourselves in complete agreement, both on the need for such measures and the need to conceal them from Dumbledore, even after the fact. Albus simply would never have countenanced such a thing, even were he to have acknowledged the need for it. Nor did the doctor tell Miss Stellanova -- or, at least," Snape said, choosing his words with more than even his usual exquisite care, "he told me that he would not tell her, as he had made a promise to her not to revert to his old ways, and that this would constitute breaking that promise -- even though it was for a cause which she most likely would ultimately have approved, given time.

"Of course, we had to find a way that would not involve magic, or the actual physical presence of Dr. Lecter -- either would have raised suspicions during the investigation. He arranged to provide me with several Muggle hypnotic drugs, as well as teaching me the basics of Muggle hypnosis; we practiced on house-elves, immediately Memory-Charming them afterwards, until I was able to perform to his satisfaction.

"The meeting with McNair was easily arranged; as a fellow Death Eater, I had always been welcome in McNair's offices. I let it be known that I was meeting him on the Dark Lord's business, so he made sure that we were alone and unobserved. A few drops of hypnotic drug in his coffee, and he was soon in the proper frame of mind to accept hypnotic suggestions -- complete, of course, with the final suggestion that he would not remember the conversation.

"Several days later, he met Fudge as they were both on the way to a humdrum Ministry meeting. The rest you know."

Another silence, this one somewhat shorter, while Harry digested what Snape had just said.

"The killings happened in Diagon Alley," the young Auror finally noted, leaning forward in his chair. "Was that intentional?"

"Of course," Snape snorted. "A private murder and suicide, as well as the fact of McNair's being an active Death Eater, would have been covered up by Malfoy's minions within the Ministry. Getting rid of both Fudge and McNair was not enough -- we had to ensure that Lucius wouldn't be able to appoint another head-in-the-sand type as Minister. Thus, the hypnotic suggestion was set to be triggered when, and only when, McNair encountered Fudge out in the open, in front of a large crowd, with the murder -- for that is exactly what it was, Potter, and both Lecter and I were not blind to that fact -- to be followed immediately by his showing off the Dark Mark to all and sundry, then a quick suicide before he could be caught and questioned by the Aurors. I had incorporated in my suggestion to McNair the idea that he should attend that particular meeting, knowing that he could not help but meet Fudge on the way to it."

"Very clever," noted Harry, though without any particular enthusiasm. "Brilliantly planned and executed." His gaze took in all of Professor Snape, still sitting at his desk, his face not registering any emotion that Harry could detect. "It suddenly makes sense, especially in his choice of conspirators."

Snape actually laughed at that, a short, bitter chuckle. "Yes, it was rather a complement, wasn't it, Potter? Both that he would trust my discretion and my ability to carry out the task at hand. But he knew that I, with my past history, was the obvious choice."

The Potions master rose from his desk, a smooth flowing action that Harry knew was intended as a gesture of dismissal. "I trust I have answered all your questions."

"Yes, Professor. And, yes, I will be on my way now."

Snape smiled again, his standard thin, bitter smile. He even allowed it to reach his eyes. "Good day, Mr. Potter."

"Good day, Professor."

Harry stood up and was out the door without a backward glance.

The members of the audience inside Diagon Alley's Lyceum murmured like a hive filled with excited bees.

They were all here to listen to a speaker, a young wizard armed with a Muggle medical degree, who was leading the efforts to introduce cutting-edge Muggle psychiatric practices to the wizarding world, melding and refining them with magical techniques. He had scores of successful cures to his credit, many of them victims of Dark magic who had been written off as untreatable.

All in all, it was very good for a lad who was barely seven years out of Hogwarts. But, then again, he had himself been written off as untreatable, along with his parents, until Marcus Reader had come along.

The crowd erupted in ecstatic applause as he walked onto the stage, his quick, light strides bringing him gracefully to the podium. His light brown hair was combed straight back from his forehead, and his smile showed white, even teeth. His Muggle dress suit was Italian, and beautifully cut even by the standards of Italy.

He patiently waited for the crowd to settle down before starting to speak.

"Good afternoon," he said, in a pleasantly-modulated baritone, well suited to soothing worn and wounded nerves. "I'm Neville Longbottom, and today I'm going to talk about the uses of atypical antipsychotic drugs in the treatment of the chronically insane..."

The End