Disclaimer – You're still Harry Potter. Someone named JKR and her publishers own all your rights to you and everyone in your universe. Even the title of this story and the chapter titles come from a different source – an eighties classic by the band Loverboy.
Acknowledgements – As this is the sequel to Bungle in the Jungle, this wouldn't have been possible without the efforts of all those who helped me with the previous story. Thank you all. Now, this particular chapter goes out to all the members of Alpha Fight Club and all you folks clamoring for me to go ahead and get this thing started already. ZanyMuggle is the current beta for this story and I thank him for his time and effort.
And now here's what you've been waiting for…
Turn Me Loose: A Harry Potter Adventure
Chapter 1 – I was Born to Run
Saturday October, 12th 1996
You already know what you would do with five minutes to live – you've answered that question. You'd fight, because you won't go down that easily. You'd survive, because you don't have any other options. You'd claw your way to victory, making something out of nothing, because that's what you do – it's who you are. There aren't that many people you can count on to fight the battle beside you and most of them have their own agendas.
Every year since Hagrid told you that you were a wizard, you've been fighting other people's battles. One would think a six hundred year old coot would have figured out how to protect his own damn stone! Surely, this wasn't the first time someone tried to 'Nick' it? Slay a thousand year old monster? Sure why not! It's not like anyone else was going to bloody well do it. Dementors make great truancy officers – stay in school or lose your soul! Hey Harry, we've decided to host a dangerous tournament, hope you don't mind that someone entered you. No, nothing suspicious about that, is there? Students of Hogwarts, presenting Delores Umbridge! The less said about that, the better.
You don't even want to discuss the betrayals that started this summer. Returning to England brings it all back to the front. The powers that be decided that being forced into a relationship with one girl wasn't working, so they tried the other one. Like a bad episode of that cartoon with the talking dog, they would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for their ability to completely fuck up! That will not happen again. Blood will be shed first and by 'Blood' you mean their blood.
That doesn't sound very heroic, but 'Hero' is a funny word. People think you're 'The Hero'. Kwan's right – people are idiots. They only see the brave and noble Harry Potter defying a Dark Lord at age one. They didn't see the kid hunched in a tiny cupboard on urine stained sheets praying for someone to save him.
Then again, maybe good old Petunia dropped you on your head one too many times as a baby and that might be difference between bravery and stupidity. You could make an argument that the 'Power the Dark Lord knows not' is brain damage. Dumbledore should have listened to the great Tina Turner – What's Love got to do with it? Probably not a damn thing!
Escaping to South America with your new best mate Bill, you avoided the people who wanted to either kill you or use you for their own ends. Somewhere along the way, you became one curse breaking, Daemon slaying, hidden city discovering, Goblin hating, Inferi destroying, Unforgivable using, don't want to run into you in a dark alley, Animagus. You went into that jungle a boy and returned a man with a few notches on your wand and a few more scores to settle.
The battles are still waiting for you, but now you get to fight them your way. When you figure out what that is, you'll be the first to know, but something's better that what you had before isn't it? At least, you've made a few changes in your life and they should limit other people's hold on good old Harry James Potter. There are a couple of people you can trust with your life. Come to think of it, that number should always be a low one – shouldn't it? Statistically, there's less of a chance of someone screwing you over.
Kwan Chang-Ho, Bill Weasley, the ex-Boy-Who-Lived, and Hack the daemonically-enhanced troll – now, that's one motley crew. You landed in England and avoided the 'friendly' welcoming committees. 'Unfriendly', well that's what brings you back to the here and now . . .
Somewhere over the Atlantic, you felt an odd sensation like a building pressure in your skull. Tom Riddle's checking in and he knows that you're on your way back. It's bad enough you have to kill him once and for all, but do you really have to feel him in your head? Exactly what did you do in a previous life to get that shitty deal?
Of the three Death Eaters that 'found' you, one is a big, burly Nordic guy. You don't know him and you don't really care. Bill and Hack will handle him. The second one you'd never forget. Her name is Bellatrix Lestrange. No doubt she'd be giving you the little baby voice taunts, but she's got her hands full at the moment. There's a reason people pay Kwan handsomely for his services. Even with a fake leg, he's one of the best and unlike all these so called Dark Wizard catchers in England, the Korean Hit-wizard isn't the least bit intimidated by her. That leaves the last one facing you. His name is Antonin Dolohov. The Death Eater is at least three times your age, skilled, and a killer. He's probably still pissed about you stunning him in the Department of Mysteries. Sorry, Dumbledore, it doesn't look like they stayed caught very long this time, unless Azkaban has instituted a catch and release program.
The long-term parking lot at Heathrow isn't exactly the most private place to conduct a magical duel, but you didn't exactly plan for it. There's a nice little spot for magical people to arrange transportation back in the terminal, complete with Ministry official and probably more than a few bounty hunters. That didn't seem like such a good idea. Three of you could Apparate to safety, but you've grown fond of the Troll. Besides, this is what the Obliviators get paid for. You dive roll under the same purple curse that he injured Granger with and banish a sewer cover at him. He dodges, but you roll with him and summon that metal cover right back towards you. Jake Collins taught you that trick. You'd thank him, but unfortunately, he's dead.
Dolohov gets clipped by the cover on his left side. It caught the shoulder and not his head. Just a flesh wound – damn! You'll have to work on your aim. With a swish and flick you mutter the spell that halts it a few meters in front of you. A gesture causes it to swerve into the path of the killing curse the Ukrainian tries to land. He closes the gash on his shoulder and Apparates out of the way of your cutting curse. You don't want to advertise that you can Apparate just yet, so you spin towards the sound of the crack and see him on the roof of someone's BMW. You recognize the blasting curse he's casting. It's rather obscure and it's not aimed at you. The target is the pavement around you. Screw it! Apparate!
Squeezing back into existence, you reappear one row directly behind him in next to a Volvo. Spinning, you hurl a blaster at the BMW. Car go boom! If they could afford a 'Beamer', they could afford the insurance. Hearing sirens mixed with screams in the distance, you wonder if the IRA is going to get blamed for this. Where's Dolohov? Did you get him? Don't count on it! Instinctively, you raise a shield that buckles under the bludgeoner that slams into it driving you into the ground. That'll leave a bruise! Apparate!
Good thing you did – the bastard Apparated on top of a light pole and tried to give you 'Death From Above'. The area you just vacated is washed in a crimson fireball taking the Volvo with it. Here you thought they had a reputation for safety. Cagey bastard, but he underestimates you. You know more than he suspects and not just how to Apparate.
So much for hiding your power, but then again, counting on Riddle to toy with you again isn't necessarily a great plan. Right now, killing Antonin Dolohov is a much better plan! Apparition takes a good deal of energy – it leaves most people weak and prevents casting the really powerful spells. That's why you're bruised from the bludgeoner he led with and not scorch mark on the asphalt. He's not powerful enough to have led with the fireball.
On the other hand, you're not like 'most people'. Kwan's pushed you past Apparater's cramps. The Korean can't manage a very strong spell after Apparition. He typically uses piercing curses allowing his superior aim to take a weak spell and make someone bleed. You on the other hand can still bring it. At least fate gave you the raw power to play in Riddle's league. You'll hurt, but not nearly as much as he will. Dropping to one knee, you bring the holly wand down on the pavement and scream, "Invito Fulgurex!"
The surge of energy makes you gasp and quiver. Keep it together Potter and don't black out! You managed it once on the Lakota reservation, but you didn't have massive amounts of adrenaline flooding through your body back then. Raw heavenly electrical power slams into the large metal pole causing it and the cars around it to explode. Dolohov's Apparition comes a second too late. He reappears with a crack and collapses to the ground.
The old Harry Potter, well, if he'd been here, he'd probably have followed it up with a stunner and maybe a binding spell – just to make sure. Stunners are for people you don't mind seeing again. Ropes, they'd look mighty nice wrapped around Lauren or even Fleur, but you've learned to play for keeps. You never want to see Dolohov again. A reductor blows a chunk of flesh out of his chest the size of your fist and the laceration curse a dead Texas Hit-wizard used to butcher cattle with for 'fun' digs a trench starting about a meter in front of Dolohov and ending roughly two meters behind him. Now you're sure he won't get back up.
Turning back, you catch the shocked look on Bellatrix's face. The crazy bitch just might be scared! Even the insane are allowed moments of clarity. Try and run, little rabbit! You start an Anti-Apparition chant, but she goes the other way and triggers a Portkey, while shielding against Kwan's onslaught. You didn't have enough time for a combination chant, and guessed the wrong escape method to block. Well, better luck next time.
Surveying the damage, the Obliviators are going to have their work cut out for them. The whole fight took maybe two minutes and left one hell of a mess. Okay blowing up half a row of cars and that electrical transformer burning in the distance says the lighting bolt might have been tad excessive. Kwan looks more annoyed than injured. You pop over to Bill who is trying to close an ugly wound on his leg while Hack looks at the blood stains about ten meters away with a disgusted look on his face.
Hack grunted with disappointment. "Wizard duck Hack's club. Hack only hit arm," he said, pointing at the arm in question. Well, you assume it's the arm in question. Identifying a limb dismembered by a spiked daemon club would be sort of like trying to figure out what Riddle had for breakfast by looking at the shit on Malfoy's lips. "Hack aim better next time," the big guy finishes.
Helping Bill close his wound and giving him a hand to his feet, you smirk at him. He looks apologetic as you snatch a blood replenisher out of your pockets and hand it to him. "I know. You're a lover not a fighter, for which, I'm sure Fleur is extremely grateful."
"Sorry, Harry. The guy was better than me, but he thought Hack was just another wizard under the glamours. Hack ran right through his bonecrusher and gave him a love tap."
"Talk, talk, talk! Do all you English stand around and talk this much? Keep standing here and we can talk to the Normals. Do you see all of them running towards us? Maybe Dark Witch come back with a dozen friends and we can all talk! Move now! Talk later!"
Kwan's cheerful as ever, but he has a point as the sounds of sirens and people are running out of the terminal – time to go. You vanish the junk-filled suitcases. The 'real' luggage is shrunken and in the backpacks all of you are wearing. Picking up a scrap of nearby metal with the BMW emblem still emblazoned and hand it to Kwan. You look at the three. "Shall we go pay our respects to the Minister now? Let's stick to the plan."
You sigh starting to feel the effects of summoning lightning as Kwan creates the Portkey. Fortunately, England is a relatively small island and you can Portkey nearly anywhere from London. For the moment, he's the only one actually licensed to create one in these parts and if the DMLE were being a pain they could point out that his credentials are in need of renewal. That would actually be funny to watch some rookie Auror trying to tell Kwan that his credentials need to be reregistered here in England. You could probably get away with it too with your 'status', but no need to give the Ministry any ammunition to try and use against you.
"Fun, fun, fun …" is all you manage to get out before the Portkey rips you away.
Reappearing several miles away in Diagon Alley, the four of you are immediately joined by a fifth man. His name is Sean and he's a hired wand. You bought the services of his crew of bounty hunters. Negotiations were done at wand point – yet another of those things that most sixteen year olds don't get to and probably shouldn't have to experience. Hack easily supports Bill's weight as Weasley leans up against the Troll.
"Didn't get to mount the head on a pike as you requested, but help arrived much quicker than expected. Octavius Nott is dead and his mansion is burning as we speak."
"Any collateral damage?" It's a more pleasant way than asking, 'how many other people did you have to kill?'
"His wife was away. There was one other man present. He's dead now too. Both had the Dark Mark. Per our agreement, that's another thousand galleons for an 'extra' Death Eater. My diversion team deliberately tripped the wards a two other locations to get their forces moving."
Ironic that you're sitting here listening to a man tell you about two people with about the same emotional detachment of making an expensive purchase and in a way, that's what you just did. Twelve – now thirteen thousand galleons just bought the death of two men and burnt an 'Ancient and Noble House' to the ground.
"No losses on your side?" Kwan asks, not really out of concern for the hit squad, but for the sake of knowing for follow-on work. He looks critically at Bill, "Go get healed! You no use to us like that. Looking wounded attracts attention."
Bill leaned close to Kwan and whispers to him. The Korean actually sighs and shakes his head before waving his wand across Bill's forehead and then his injured leg. Bill straightens up and stands. You recognize it as a rather dubious healing spell. It isn't used typically except in combat, because it comes with a heavy price. It speeds healing, but mostly, it allows the person to ignore their injury. Next time Bill goes to sleep; it will be for three days at the minimum.
"No. The ward scheme was accurate, but they have some additional layer of alarms. Ivan's best guess is that they are linked to the Dark Mark and set by the owner. The alarms were too late to save them, but it was a close call getting out of there when the reinforcements arrived."
Bill answers for you, "The money will be transferred as agreed upon with the additional one thousand added in. We will be in touch when we have more work for you."
"My folks are in the Alley and have you covered to the Ministry building."
"Thank you. We look forward to working with you in the future."
The dark haired man nods and Apparates away. The whole conversation had a 'sterilized' feeling to it. Would Granger be proud of you that you can use the word 'euphemism' in a sentence? The raid was timed to coincide with your return to England, in hopes that the Death Eater forces would be spread thin and increase both mission's chances of success. Hopefully, Bellatrix is still looking for help. You wonder if the other Death Eater would make it if the only person around to heal him was that psychotic bitch.
The Ministry is just like you remembered it. When the man asks you to turn in your wand, you show him the first document in your satchel. He stares at it and you long and hard.
"Is this some kind of a joke?"
You drop your glamours. "I don't make jokes. These four are with me and we are late for a meeting with the Minister of Magic. I assume word was left here to expect me."
"Yes, but …"
"Then allow us to pass." Nikolai Colastos taught you quite a few things about dealing with low level bureaucrats. It's amazing how easy it is with a tiny bit of confidence.
"I'll allow it, but you will have an Auror escort."
An all too familiar voice answers, "I'll take them up."
The man at the wand check station pales noticeably. "Yes, Auror Moody." Chiding yourself for not spotting him, you watch the old man limp up. He had 'lost' himself in the crowd, but it looks like Kwan spotted him.
With Moody's escort, you pass beyond the checkpoint and head to the lifts. His eye swivels regarding each of you. "Two whole squads of Obliviators are on their way to Heathrow. You boys were just at the airport, how were things? I'm surprised you're walking on that leg Weasley – better get that thing looked at soon."
Bill gives him the briefest of details on the way up and drops his glamour. Opening the door to Minister Scrimgeour's office, you push through the outer waiting room and into the administrative office and 'inner' waiting room – where the people who are actually going to get to meet with the Minister are sitting. Two assistants are holding court determining who gets to see the Minister and when. This should be fun as several immediately notice Mad Eye and, of course, you. Flanked by Bill and Mad Eye you head straight to Percy Weasley.
"Long time no see Percy." Bill says with a neutral tone.
Percy's answer is equally devoid of warmth, "William. What is the meaning of this? Is this another of Dumbledore's imposters?" You wonder if anyone actually believes it's you at Hogwarts right now. England – the land of the poorly kept secrets…
"I'm the real thing, Percy. We're here to see Minister Scrimgeour."
"I'm afraid the Minister is in a very important meeting at …"
"Yes, I am well aware that he is meeting with Ambassador Alesandro Dimperio, the head of the South American Peacekeeping force that now patrols Diagon Alley to allow England's Aurors more time to focus on the threat of the Death Eaters. I am also aware that Senior Ambassador Alesandro left word that the Junior Ambassador from the Brazilian Ministry would be attending the meeting."
Percy fixes you with a calculating stare. You're enjoying this far too much as you produce your paperwork from your diplomatic satchel and thrust them into his hand. "I am here to formally present myself to Minister Scrimgeour on behalf of my government."
As Percy stares open mouthed at the paperwork in his hand, Bill mutters, "I knew I should have brought a camera. At least we can go into the Pensieve later and laugh about it."
It's Moody's reaction that you're really interested in, since he wasn't privy to this 'minor' detail. The grizzled Auror cracks a smile and looks impressed. "Ambassador Potter, from Brazil – that's inventive."
"I'm still trying to decide whether to keep dual citizenship or renounce the English one. I suppose this meeting will go a ways towards making that decision, assuming Weatherby here stops trying to catch flies and announces our presence to Minister Scrimgeour." You couldn't resist the 'Weatherby' dig at Percy. He's clearly flustered.
After allowing Percy a minute to regain his composure, you are admitted into the office. The rest remain in the 'outer' waiting room.
Minister Scrimgeour looks up from his desk as you enter. Alesandro is a tall thin man with short black hair and a wispy mustache. He stands to introduce you. "Minister Scrimgeour, my junior Ambassador, Harry Potter. The six peacekeepers that will patrol your town of Hogsmeade will report to him."
"What is the meaning of this?" Scrimgeour gapes obviously shocked.
"As a token of our thanks for Mr. Potter's recent actions, our Minister has seen fit to award him not only the Medallion of Tiradentes, but he been granted full citizenship, recognition as a Journeyman Cursebreaker and has graciously accepted an Ambassadorship to return to the land of his birth."
Scrimgeour is red-faced, but being quick on one's feet is a necessity for a politician. "Well congratulations are in order then, Ambassador Potter. How is it that you completed your education?"
"He was evaluated by our Educational Minister and the Headmistress of our Academie de Magia and deemed to be a wizard of considerable talent and promise. As your country is also a signatory to the ICW Accords of 1732, I believe that means you also recognize his status as an adult wizard."
You decide to take the initiative, "Excuse me Alesandro, I don't have time to play games, Minister. Voldemort wants me dead. So, I got away from all the people trying to use me for their own ends and made some allies. I want Voldemort dead and if bringing three dozen of my new countrymen here to assist the Aurors, by taking over the patrols of the Alley and Hogsmeade helps catch Death Eaters and weakens Voldemort then that's what I'll do."
Scrimgeour nods obviously analyzing how this can be shown in a positive light for his administration, "Might I inquire exactly what service did you perform for the people of Brazil?"
"I'm afraid that Mr. Potter's deeds are classified at the moment, but I am told that when the details are released that the honors bestowed upon him are much less than he deserves."
"So you do not know either."
"I know to trust my Uncle's judgment."
The Minister gets a calculating look on his face. "And this is when you're going to tell me what this is all about?"
"I want him dead – for good this time! From what I was told by Dumbledore," you make a point of grimacing when you say his name, "you want to make me some kind of poster boy out there telling everyone what a fabulous job you're doing. Considering, I killed Dolohov at Heathrow a few minutes ago and he was in jail when I left, you haven't made a good impression. Why don't we get Dumbledore here and I can do this all at once? We'll work together. In public, we're gonna be one big happy family."
"I guess that really means you're not Dumbledore's man. Actually, let us continue our discussion and drag the Chief Warlock out here later."
"There was probably a time when that might have been true, but I've banished those foolish notions."
Ambassador Dimperio stood. "I believe my portion of this meeting is done. Harry, I will come to see you in a few days, after you have settled in. We are hosting a dinner for Minister Scrimgeour next weekend and their will be members of the press there. We need to discuss your relationship with the British press."
You acknowledge Alesandro knowing that your stormy past with the media and how you will need to behave will be a long conversation. Its part of the life you signed up for when you made this deal with the Brazilian Minister. You can tell Scrimgeour is practically bursting at the seams to ask you questions.
"Ambassador Potter, we seem to have gotten off on the wrong foot, so to speak. Let us cast aside our preconceived notions of each other and start anew. I am here because Fudge was cast out and the others were either too frightened to take up the fight or like my dear friend Amelia, were murdered. You have returned to our shores with much needed fighters. I can understand why you would want them here, but I have yet to understand why they would agree to come here?"
"I was able to convince Minister Dimperio of the danger that the Death Eaters present. Much like the American Normals sent Expeditionary forces to Europe in their World Wars; my superiors decided that by having our people here, that they would receive reliable reports of the severity of the situation." You smile, knowing it is only part of the truth. The real reason is that South America is less than a year from a 'staged' Goblin Revolt and Minister Dimperio wants his troops 'bloodied' before then. Most of the Peacekeepers are not very seasoned with only a few veterans here to bring them up to speed. Juan Dimperio fully expects his peacekeepers to see combat.
Part of the ugliness of politics is evident. Scrimgeour knows you are holding back, but to directly say so would be a diplomatic faux pas. Instead, there will be subtle interrogation, where he will try to get you to misspeak. You stick to the prepared answers, because the words Harry Potter and subtle do not get used in the same sentence very often. The chaos at Heathrow was your attempt at subtly entering the country. This afternoon, you will try to subtly return to Hogwarts.
"Do you intend to remain a British Citizen? I would urge you to. I doubt the people would understand if you were to renounce us. They would see it as a betrayal." Translated for the neophyte diplomat, that meant, 'I'll have the sheep run you out of here with a broom shoved up your arse if you do.'
"That is not my intention. Dual citizenship is working for me now. I and the forces I have brought are committed to helping Britain through this perilous time," which was your way of saying, 'So long as you don't try and screw me over, in which case, I and my three dozen peacekeepers will pack up and leave and take bets on how long before the people or Voldemort run your arse out of here as well.'
"Indeed, for which I cannot be grateful enough. Your Senior Ambassador indicated that you would operate out of Hogsmeade, I gather that means you will in fact be returning to Hogwarts?"
"It is as heavily warded a place as there is in this land. Since I am a Curse Breaker, the school is especially interesting. My main interest is seeing the Dark Lord defeated. If Riddle was powerful enough to challenge the Old Man in his lair, he would have already done so." Yes, you are willingly putting yourself in Dumbledore's reach, but you don't have to like it. "Minister, these are troubled times the ugliness at Heathrow is likely to be repeated. Those who openly support Riddle also should not be allowed to become too comfortable."
"Shortly before my meeting began, I received a report that the estate of Octavius Nott had been attacked. It sounds like someone is already trying to send such a message. Rest assured that any attacks on private citizens will be given the appropriate level of consideration with regards to the work load of our law enforcement officials – though I would publicly have to discourage any such vigilante acts."
That's about as much of an endorsement as you are going to receive. You wonder how much it would cost to see Malfoy Manor burnt to the ground.
"So Ambassador, tell me, I have never been to Brazil. What did you like about it?" You didn't expect that one, but decide it must mean, 'If we both get run out of here, I might need a place for a government in exile.'
"The land is warm year around. The people are good to me and I've enjoyed my time there." There was actually much more than that – Scrimgeour would be hard pressed to pull, 'The Jungle was harsh. I almost died on several occasions and I'm lucky that I'm on the good side of the crooked bastards that run that Ministry,' out of that statement.
When you think about it, 'diplomatic speak' is actually kind of fun.
Eventually, 'Innuendo 101' winds down, with the promise of another lesson at the state dinner. The flash of a photographer's camera captures the Minister personally escorting you to the Chief Warlock's office at the Ministry. He offers to stay, which of course meant that he wanted to see the show. You politely decline his company and wait while the Minister has someone firecall Dumbledore. Ironically, or maybe because he is in a generous mood, Scrimgeour has Percy bring in refreshments. Rufus must have a sense of humor! Watching him being reduced to serving boy, well that just adds to the enjoyment. Bill is enjoying it probably even more than you, but after his morning, he deserves it.
Much too soon for your liking, Albus Dumbledore arrives grasping the leg of his Phoenix. You want to catch the look in his eye, but Fawkes hovers right in front of you hissing angrily. It trills which sounds like a beautiful song played far too loudly forcing you to shy away from it. It turns on the Troll just as quickly and everyone realizes that the office, while quite spacious isn't the best place for a Troll and a Phoenix to get nasty.
Dumbledore commands it to leave, while looking at you curiously. That's not a good sign; you can only imagine that all the exposure to undead, death and swapping blood and spit with a Daemon is bound to leave a mark on you.
"Hello Harry. Fawkes seems to have taken a dislike to you. That is most troubling."
"The phoenix still blindly follows you. You've gotten more loyalty out of me than you deserve. It probably knows what I think of you." Looking down at the diseased thing that he once called a hand you sneer. Sometimes doing the easy thing is better than doing the right thing.
"I'm sorry to see that things have degenerated so badly between us. I promised you an apology in person and I do apologize for my role in the events of this summer. In a more private setting, I will do my best to give you an accounting and explanation of my actions. Fortunately, you have returned and we can start anew."
"We can start when I have your oath not to turn me into a love addled fool or have me Obliviated. Just like I told the Minister, in public we'll all be one big happy family. You can be sure that I won't set foot in that castle until I have it." You pretty much ignore the first of many meaningless apologies you'll be receiving in the near future.
"I will accede to your request to ensure that you return to the safety of Hogwarts to complete your education. I applaud your sudden interest in the Art of Curse Breaking."
You wonder how wolfish your smile looks as you hand him your credentials. "As one adult wizard to another, I appreciate your concern Headmaster Dumbledore. I wouldn't mind the opportunity to sharpen my Curse Breaking skills at your fine institution with Mr. Weasley here as my personal instructor. I've been given the Journeyman title, but I don't feel that I've really earned it just yet."
"What exactly have you done, Harry?" Dumbledore jerks an old style pocket watch from his robes and stares at it intently before relaxing and putting it away. You responded to his sudden movement by drawing your wand. His expression narrows as you return your wand to its holster. There is no twinkle in his eyes. You recall him openly mocking Dawlish before outdrawing him and stunning everyone he wanted in the room. You're much faster than Dawlish.
"That's a rather broad question, Headmaster. I'm legally an adult now and a wizard. Technically, my education is over."
"I see, but you are coming back anyway."
"I don't see why not. There is still the matter of Voldemort and the pieces of …"
The old man waves you silent. "That is not a discussion for here. We can address that later. Onto a more pleasant subject, I would hope that you plan on continuing your classes; it is only when one's schooling ends that their true education begins. Unfortunately, if you are not a student, I may not be able to allow you to participate on the Quidditch squad. I will see what I can do."
He offers a carrot – you toss it back at him, "There'll be time for Quidditch later. I'll attend some classes as my busy schedule allows. I would like to be quartered in the visitor's quarters along with Bill, Kwan and Hack."
"I will see what I can do, but the Troll may be a problem. The Board of Governors has become wary of Dark Creatures on school grounds."
You're tempted to make a comment about Snape, but instead you give him some of his own doublespeak, "Headmaster, problems are only challenges for which a solution is required. Besides, you're underestimating yourself. You've managed to get several remarkable personnel on the staff of your school in the last few years."
It takes a few minutes to agree on the wording of the oath, but with Bill, Moody and Kwan all looking for ways that the Headmaster could possibly wiggle out of it, you feel all the bases are covered. Bill agrees to be the oath binder and within five minutes you don't have to worry about Dumbledore ordering you doused with potions or Obliviating you, or having you Obliviated. You agree to attend classes to the best of your ability, defend the castle and the students to the best of your ability, and reside at the Castle for the next two years unless you are for some reason forced out.
With the group of you ready to return to Hogwarts, Fawkes refuses to transport you. Under Scrimgeour's instructions the Ministry has erected Anti-Portkey wards, which means you'll be flooing to Hogsmeade. Dumbledore recommends his brother's tavern and to allow Moody to go first.
Kwan finishes 'dressing' Hack, who shrinks himself down to a respectable size to receive the Korean's glamours. One of the weird things about Hack ever since the encounter with the Daemon and the creature's blood that coated his wounds is that he can change his size. There was a magical growth potion in him at the time and it's the only thing that makes sense. At his smallest, he's about a meter tall and he can actually hover using those tiny bat wings; the only part of his body that doesn't change size. Out of habit, he sticks to his three meter size, but he can reach the same five meter size that he was against the Daemon. Naturally, the first time he did it, the troll dropped his pants to make sure that all the equipment grows. You didn't need to see that. Not only was it gross, but it made you feel oddly inadequate.
The changes appear permanent and while that's good for him, but it scares you. You swallowed a good deal of that same thick ichor during the battle. Every headache you've had since then has you checking yourself naked in the mirror for horns, scales or a tail. So far, the only thing you have discovered is that you always know where your troll is. Riddle has his snake. The old liar has his firebird. Fate has handed you a size changing demi-human with hygiene problems, gutter humor, and a willingness to put the wood to every female troll who wanders into his line of sight. Ironically, you wouldn't trade him for a dragon – he's just that cool.
The streets of Hogsmeade are packed with your former classmates running around filled to the brim with blissful ignorance. A good notice-me-not charm and no one gives the four of you a second glance.
One of the nice things about your summer is that you don't need your glasses anymore. You still have a pair, but the only thing about your vision they improve is your ability to see magic – top of the line curse breaking glasses with a price tag to match, but money isn't a problem for you – Dark Wizards and even a few Light Wizards, they are your main problem. Living long enough to enjoy spending a tiny chunk of your ridiculous wealth is a worthy goal, isn't it?
A tap from your wand activates them and the castle in the distance lights up in a multi-colored hue that bedazzles you. The only other time you experienced something like this was when Thundercloud was pouring that Peyote laced Animagus potion down your throat and you were seeing some serious shit! Right now you're stone cold sober and the sight in front of you is like something out of a kaleidoscope.
It's easy to see why a Breaker would come here and take one look at the wards and chortle with glee. What Bill's childhood home is to magical architecture, this is to ward schemes. Located where two particularly strong ley lines intersect, you now see what Bill meant when he said that a person could spend years just trying to map out the protections – some possibly dating back to Rowena herself.
Mesmerized you stare at the flow of colors, but your attention is drawn to a tiny swirl of darkness on the path towards the castle. Whatever it is, it is localized and fairly intense.
"Bill, there's something going on. Let's move!"
Sprinting up the path, it's tempting to shift into your jaguar form, and cover the distance in less than a minute, but charging into unknown situations ahead of your backup gets you injured more often than not. So, the whole headlong blindly into peril thing makes far less sense than it used to.
There's a girl floating in the air with a swirling mass of energy around her. Now that's something you don't see every day. You recognize Leanne Patterson staring in horror at the scene in front of her. That means the person in the middle of that maelstrom is Katie Bell. She's not on the list of people that have screwed you over. Move it Harry!
"Hack, get her down! Now! Gently! Bill, what the hell is that thing on the ground? Watch it! Whatever it is looks dark as all hell. Leanne, tell me what happened. Kwan, help me check her out."
Funny thing is just over a month ago; you'd have been the one waiting for Kwan or Bill to tell you what to do, but you're part of the team now and they respect you every bit as much as you respect them. The girl starts babbling. It means absolutely squat. She doesn't know anything and it isn't helping. Glancing at Kwan, you silence her.
Bill slides in next to you. "It's a seriously Dark object Harry. Let me in there, Kwan. Your diagnostics aren't going to help. We already know what's killing her. Use the glasses and we'll find out where it is and see if we can stop it. Kwan, can you keep her down? Watch it, she's starting to thrash. Good, hold her still. Hack, keep the kiddies back. Harry work with me look for black lines – they'll be the same dark color as the object. It'll be spreading."
The glasses barely perceive her aura, at first you think it's going to be like looking for a needle in a barn full of haystacks, but then, you sense the wrongness. It draws your attention to the vile presence spreading up her right arm.
"Right arm! It's moving!"
"I'm on it!" Bill's wand moves and Katie's arm sleeve vanishes. An ugly smear of runes dances across her flesh on the inside of her forearm with a growing purple welt surrounding them. The tendrils of magic flow up her arm and are almost to the shoulder.
"It's in pretty deep! Harry, use your wand. Stick it at the leading edge of the infection. Use your basic Norse anti-ward chant and keep the tip of your wand on top of it. That should keep it from moving further. I'm going to latch on at the base of the infestation and try to pull it back."
You follow Bill's instructions as he puts his wand in the center of the swirling runic mess on her arm. A noise reminding you of fingernails on a chalkboard assaults your senses as Bill's chants join your voice. The tip of your wand glows, and the thin line of darkness moving up her arm slows to a crawl – slows, but doesn't stop! Bill's working feverishly on her. He's straining from the effort and it's beginning to show.
You hear Kwan summon a Patronus. It distracts you momentarily, as you instinctively look for the dark shapes of Dementors and lose your hold on the tip of the curse. The Thestral Patronus swirls around you. No Dementors; Kwan's just using the same trick all of you picked up in the lost city. The Patronus is guardian spirit energy and it's bathing all of you in its power. It can lessen the effects of a dark curse. He's a bloody genius! You get control back of the slowly moving curse. You don't want to be forced to vanish any more of her clothes. The scene probably looks bizarre enough as it is. Three guys holding a thrashing girl down on the ground with a troll standing guard while another girl is screaming at the top of her silenced lungs. Kwan's right, every time you try and blend in; you just end up drawing more attention to yourself. You recall thinking something about subtlety getting to the castle.
Sparing a glance at Bill you watch as some of the runes begin to follow his wand back into the air. He's latched on to the curse and is pulling it out of her. Both his hands are on the wand and it's like he's struggling with it. It reminds you of those idiotic fishing shows you'd see Vernon watching occasionally. You focus on the runes themselves as you continue to chant words belonging to Viking tribal shamans centuries ago. You see the shapes of Old Norse runes. Bill's attention to detail still impresses you; no wonder he told you to go with the Norse chant. You don't have time to translate what it means, but the last symbol is heart. That's where this curse is headed.
Naturally, Katie's magic is not only fighting the curse, but your efforts to stop the curse. Her moans of agony join with the chants. Bill's been fighting with this thing for a minute when he sags forward and the three symbols floating in the air plunge like fangs back down to the Chaser's arm. She arches her back almost beyond what is humanly possible – not good!
He's hyperventilating. In between gasps, he manages, "Too strong. I can't pull it. It's headed for her heart. We're going to have to take the arm."
Katie's right handed and no one is ever going to draft a one armed chaser. "No! Let me try pulling it. You keep it from spreading."
Kwan refreshes his Patronus as you and Bill switch places. You've had exactly one minute to learn the chant he's been using, but you think you have the words. You begin chanting and stab your wand down on the five runes dancing on her forearm. Bill corrects your pronunciation on the fly. The sensation is like grabbing on to the root of a plant and yanking on it, except the roots is moving. Coming this fall to a school curriculum near you – Wrestling with Dark Magic 101 – Don't wait, register today! Already weakened from conjuring elemental lighting earlier today, the effort is draining. The runes continue to defy your efforts to latch on to them.
"Come on Harry! If it gets to her shoulder, we can't stop it by taking her arm. She dies. So if you're going to pull it, now is the time!"
It's not your five minutes to live this time – it's Katie's.
A small crowd is growing, but the troll with the big nasty club is keeping them back. You can't afford distractions right now. There, got the nasty bugger – like trying to hold water in your bare hands. Hang on! Just dig in and hang on! Now pull the fucker – Pull!
You've burned a man to death with your bare hands. Death is more your thing. Your expertise falls more along the lines of saving people before the bad guy hits them with the lethal curse. This whole fixing the problem after the fact is new. Don't worry about that right now. First rune is off – only four more to go. Gnashing your teeth at the effort, you keep pulling. Two down, Bill is urging you on. Three up now as many as Bill managed. Katie's counting on you.
You're not sure when you started screaming the chant out loud or when both of your arms started shaking as badly as your wand. The words sound raw coming out of your throat. You've hit the wall and if you can't push through it, a sweet girl dies. It's just like the graveyard and locking wands with Riddle. You did it then; you can do it now! The fourth one is coming up off her skin – one more to go. Nothing matters but pulling and chanting. Pain doesn't matter as your world shrinks down to nothing. It's just you, your wand and the energy in front of you. Katie's screaming now, or is that you screaming like a girl? Who cares? Just don't stop pulling!
The last one's fighting hard, but you don't quit. It's a character flaw. It's probably why everyone does think you're 'The Hero.' One day you should consider therapy, it might help. Still, it's difficult to work someone into your already crowded schedule.
The fifth one comes out with a snap, like those tug of war battles you always lost with Dudders. He'd suddenly let go and you'd fall backwards on your arse. The swirling dark magic attached to your wand fades away as you stare at clouds above you, completely exhausted. At least no one's going to immediately punch you in the stomach like dear old Dudley used to. Of course these people here, they might do something worse. Hack helps you to your feet. Okay he's mostly carrying you.
Semi-consciousness is a state you're not that familiar with. Usually after pulling this kind of stupid crap, you pass out only to wake up hours later and have someone explain what happened while you were 'indisposed'. Maybe that's really the way to go, so you can fast forward through all the mundane crap, but you can't afford to be napping right now. There's too much uncertainty. Even as delirious as you are right now, you feel the sensation of crossing through the wards surrounding Hogwarts. How did you never feel that before? Something's different it's almost like the wards sense you. You feel weaker and collapse into your troll's arms.
Welcome back to Hogwarts, Harry Potter!
Author's notes – And there you have it! I hope you feel that there hasn't been a let up. It is my intention that this be a non-stop roller coaster ride. In chapter 2 you get to finally understand some of Dumbledore's motivations and Harry gets reunited with his "friends" and a certain Miss Lovegood. Action/Adventure and awkwardness coming very soon for Ambassador Potter and his Merry err Men? A very special thanks to Draco664 for helping with the paragraph about Hack's role at the airport battle – it is both inspiring and crude.