Disclaimer – It's been a great run, but now it's time to end this story. It's all fanfiction. Enjoy.
Acknowledgements – Wow! Where to begin? So many people have helped me along the way in making Bungle in the Jungle and Turn Me Loose. From all the way back to IP82 (Where are you?), ChuckDaTruck, and Nukular Winter, all the way to Perspicacity, SomeGuyFawkes, BajaB, and Voice of Nephilim and everyone in between.
A special thanks goes out to my long time beta Aaran St. Vines. Your contributions are greatly appreciated.
Chapter 16 – Turn Me Loose
Amazingly enough you're alive, again. Kwan's Imperious Curse made it possible. Without it, Peter would have never overcome Narcissa and freed Hack. The troll recognized your spirit coming back out of the void and that allowed Wormtail to pay off his debt in a rather spectacular fashion.
If you read these events in a book, you'd never believe it.
Stepping out of the modified vault that Riddle was using as his command center, you take a brief moment to reflect on your situation. Riddle's finally gone, except for that little bit that's still inside you. If you had more time to think about things, you'd probably be worried. Coming back from the dead and the Daemons between you and the exit kind of trumps that.
It's not like you're going to go off on a killing spree and set yourself up as a Dark Lord surrounded by minions.
"Hack ready to crush skulls, puny Harry." Your troll says. The dying rat next to him nods in ascent. It's time to stop that hellspawn that masterminded all this. Kwan is dead. Bill likely is as well. Hell, you were too until a couple of minutes ago. Fawkes gets to spend the rest of eternity trapped in another dimension dying on a regular basis. That Daemon is going to go screaming back to where it came from!
Okay maybe you do have "minions" of a kind and there's a whole bunch of things needing to be killed. That's just a coincidence.
"Hello?" A faint voice cries. "Did someone say Harry? As in Harry Potter?"
You recognize that voice. In all the chaos and confusion, you'd forgotten that he might be here as well.
Walking around the corner you find him, floating in a metal cage, barely clothed, and with several parts of his body transfigured into things to degrade and humiliate him. Riddle's obviously ordered him kept alive, but didn't mind if his followers amused themselves. It's going to take awhile to reverse some of the transfigurations. The elephant ears are a nice touch. Most of his face is recognizable, but the rest isn't.
"Dudley." You almost call him "Dumbo," but choose not to.
"Harry," he replies. "Get me down!"
"You actually might be safer up there."
"Yeah right," he scoffs. "What do you want me to do, beg or something?"
"No. I'm serious. You know those wizards who did this to you. They're all dead and I've got to go fight the thing that killed them, before it destroys the world."
Dudley looks unimpressed. "You're the world's last hope. You're a tosser!"
You vanish the cage and cast a cushioning charm, while enjoying his terrified scream.
"Oi! Why'd you do that, you bloody freak? I hate you and all your effing, bloody magic!"
Considering what Dudders currently resembles, it is tempting to point out the obvious. You wonder if the impulse might be inspired by some of the Riddle fragments taking up residence inside this new body. The memory of the deformed Petunia begging you to save him overrules whatever you might want to do. In all likelihood, Vernon is dead as well and your cousin is an orphan. He's lashing out at you because he doesn't want to admit it.
"Just let it go, Dudley. Stay here. If I don't come back for you in one hour, I'm not coming back and you're on your own. C'mon guys, let's go."
"You can't just leave me here!"
Ignoring his protests, you gesture back at the way you came and say, "If you come with me, I guarantee that you will die. If you go inside that vault over there, you can hang out with the tied up, freaky bint with large breasts. She'll be out for awhile, so have a blast."
Maybe you do have a "new" cruel streak in you. Considering Narcissa probably had a hand in what happened to Dudders and was the one torturing Hack, you're probably cashing out her karma debt.
"You gotta fix me!"
"I will when I come back. If I don't, we're all going to die. For both our sakes, I hope I see you again."
The stench of death and decay is the first thing you notice. It wafts down the passageway like a warning to flee while you still have a chance. Gripping the wand in your hand tightly, you press onward.
Clarity. Thundercloud preached that life was all about clarity. You always thought it was about making peace with the animal inside of you. Finally, you get it. He really wanted you to make peace with every aspect of your being.
You're not, but you've never been closer than this moment.
Self-reliance. It was always Kwan's mantra. He never expected life to care one iota about him. His lessons taught you that if you want something done you have to stand up and do it. Was he a good man? No, he was a great man. Not all legends hide behind facades like Dumbledore. Your friend was a hitwizard and never once apologized for who he was or the things he did. He didn't go out of his way to kill, but didn't shy away from it, either. Kwan deserved a better death than being mauled by a Greater Daemon.
You will either avenge him or die trying.
Courage. Bill Weasley showed you how to face adversity with a smile. Before the journey to Brazil, you didn't know him that well. He helped you when no one else could or would. And he did it with that grin on his face that said, "I love every second of my life." He knew he wasn't the best in a duel, yet he stood by your side in the face of unimaginable horror.
You will show no fear because of him.
The Daemon made the mistake of telling you in that pensieve memory that it didn't kill Bill or Kwan in the lost city because the anger would fuel your magic. It's time to make certain that prophecy comes true.
One of the lesser daemons stumbles out into the tunnel, chased by the screeches of a duo of phoenixes working in tandem with the giant spiders. One of the eight legged monstrosities is latched onto the creature's ape head like some oversized tick. The lesser daemon's thick hide is peppered with arrows and it is bleeding from multiple places.
Your blasting curse catches the lesser daemon in the gut. It causes only as much damage as a normal cutting curse would on a regular opponent, but it draws blood. The abomination screams and stumbles as it rips the spider from its neck and dashes it against the side of the cave.
The arachnid dies in a bloody smear. The monster starts toward you, but something large intercepts it.
"Hack kill now!" It's not the most original battle cry, but what it lacks in originality, it makes up for in execution. Your friend grows to his maximum size and he uses his free arm to stiff arm the daemon.
With an overhand smash, the club in your troll's hands delivers a crushing blow that sends the daemon reeling. Made from the bones of its overlord, the club isn't affected by the foul magic protecting the beast from regular damage.
Capitalizing on the opening, you summon your jaguar patronus. It burns so brightly that you have a hard time looking at it. The ethereal missile shoots through Hack's legs as the troll cocks his arm for another blow. It strikes the monster in the chest, causing the daemon to writhe in pain.
Hack's spiked club lands directly in that searing mass of energy and drives that force into the beast. Bones break and the enemy collapses. The club smashes into it twice more. Hack stops when the mangled simian face is twisted over the creature's right shoulder at an odd angle.
Four arms won't be this easy. The ape was already gravely injured by the allies of the phoenixes. You know that and fight off the feelings of overconfidence. Even so, it only required two spells from you.
To his credit, Pettigrew is still here. His wand dangles from a limp hand at the sight of the scene in front of him. "Pull it together, Wormtail. This is only the appetizer. The main course is just ahead."
You enter the cave from the same vantage point Voldemort used less than an hour ago. The pair of Death Eaters Kwan shot are the first of many bodies strewn about like a kicked over bucket of toy soldiers. There are centaurs, unicorns, giants, trolls, and countless others dead or dying. The scene is death and chaos personified. Three lesser daemons surround their master pushing their opponents back up the goblin ramp or to the walls of the cave. They're buying four arms space to wrestle with a medium-sized dragon. The fight rolls them across the carcass of the dead hydra.
Tiny puffs of flame appear for seconds at a time on the overlord's skin. The phoenixes are conducting hit and run attacks. Their best efforts are akin to stings from insects.
Swallowing hard, you recognize the species as a Norwegian Ridgeback and wonder if …
"I was beginning to fear you wouldn't come," a voice breaks your momentary confusion and you're drawn to the source. Firenze nocks another arrow on his great bow and says, "Do you hear the universe crying out for champions?"
You can only nod, swinging your wand and gesturing to the battle in front of you. Magic flows from the core of your being, up and out the trembling wand. At first nothing happens and you fear that the charm you cast was too ambitious.
One of the dead hydra's heads rises. It clamps down on the leg of the Greater Daemon before falling limp a second later because of the accursed monster's magic resistance. A chunk of "flesh" dangles from the back of Four Arms' calf and the beast falters, losing the grip on the Ridgeback's snout.
Instinctively, the dragon spews a jet of fire into the Daemon's face. To something that thrives in the pits of Hell, it's nothing more than warm wind and some bad breath. It throttles the dragon like a bad parent would a child and tosses it aside. Your first jaguar patronus pounces on the Daemon's back. Peter's killing curse hits as well and is no more than a shove, but it's something.
"Aim for where the jaguar strikes," you tell the centaur. "Hack, stick close to me. It'll be coming for us. We'll take it together."
A second time you try to charm one of the dead hydra's heads, but it must have seen it coming and smacks it aside.
Is it just your imagination or does it look uncertain? Good. It can join the club. You've been uncertain going on just a bit over sixteen years. You summon chunks of the goblin wall from behind the abomination pelting it with rocks. A flash of fire appears next to you and another centaur stumbles out of it. Firenze barks instructions to him, while you send additional patroni at Four Arms. It's the best form of direct magic you have at your disposal. There're some happy memories you intend to make when this damn thing is gone!
Your enemy breaks into a run. It leaps around the rest of the dead hydra, but is close enough to the carcass of the giant you killed during that battle. A quick charm on the dead giant's arm and the limb snaps out and grabs the leg, making the Daemon stumble.
Peter's spells continue to fizzle against it and your magic isn't doing nearly enough. Stand and fight or run for it?
If you only had a growth potion remaining, you could try to physically take the Daemon. Even then, things would be dicey. You need to be like the phoenixes, striking and then evading. Of course, all the anti-apparition wards the goblins had down here have been sucked dry. You can "stick and move."
"This won't work. Hack! Back into the corridor, shrink and stay out of its way! Wait for my signal. First we take out the other Daemons. Peter! Apparate to the wall over there."
You concentrate. With the magic dampening nature of your enemy, it's like squeezing yourself through mud, but you pop into existence a short distance from the injured Ridgeback. It's a numbers game. You can get reinforcements. It can't. Peter almost knocks you over. Propping him up, you gesture to the back of the nearest lesser Daemon. The monster wears a boar's head on top of a giant's body. You switch from happy thoughts to burning hatred and two killing curses slam into "Piggy's" back. The force drives it to the ground.
A trio of unicorns take that opportunity and charge the fallen monster. Their horns shine with a fearsome light. Centaur lancers join them, jumping onto the back and ramming long spears into the monster.
A second apparition and you land right next to the struggling abomination. Just like the giant in Russia, you jam your wand into the monster's ear and unleash a blasting curse.
The Daemon has some kind of seizure. It bucks the centaurs on its back and tries to rise, but it collapses and dies.
Four arms spots you and changes direction. Clawed hands scoop up rocks and dead bodies. It flings them in your direction. You disappear and put the injured Ridgeback between you and the Greater Daemon.
Slinging another patronus at your foe, you start to pat yourself on your back. It'll have to come through the angry dragon to get to you. That smugness disappears when the dragon raises its head and takes a big breath. Shit! Isn't it supposed to be on your side?
Peter, following you around like a lost puppy, appears just as you apparate away. The fire catches him head on. He doesn't even have time to scream. You drop to one knee where you and the assault team entered the cavern. Three apparitions in less than a minute and all the other lethal magic take their toll. There's another puff of smoke next to you and a figure appears.
It's Dumbledore! No! Yes. It is, but it's Aberforth. In the low light and the confusion you almost thought he was the bastard of Hogwarts. You'll settle for the bastard of Hogsmeade.
"Thanks for coming!"
"Bloody hell!" the old man exclaims. "I had a bad feeling about this."
"Yeah tell me about it," you answer. "I've already died once today."
That stops the old man in his tracks. "What?"
"Never mind, we need to take out the other two lessers before we tackle the Greater. The phoenixes are interfering with the Greater's foresight. Let's take the one on the right. Ready?"
You don't bother waiting for his answer and disappear. It's has a spider's head on a bull's body and is oblivious to the numerous wounds on it. Instead it uses a pair of mandibles to scoop up a centaur and crush it.
Strangely, the centaur doesn't scream. It crumbles like it's been turned to … stone. You realize the rubble around you once formed living, breathing things. The Daemon takes notice of Aberforth, who is already cursing the beast and exhales.
With lightning fast wandwork, you vanish the cloud of death coming out of the horrific mouth. "Gorgon!" You scream. Dumbledore nods and drives an ice spear into the gaping maw while you follow it with a blinding curse aimed at all the eyes.
It grinds away on the rapidly disintegrating ice spear and flails about confused. You send all manner of curses into its flank trying to do as much damage as possible before it regains sight. Aberforth does something you hadn't even considered. He transfigures the floor of the cave under the daemon into mud. The beast sinks a few feet before the anti-magic field takes hold locking the two front legs in place. He apparates to the back and repeats the process, effectively imprisoning the Gorgon.
"We'll come back for this one later, boy!"
Yeah, the phoenixes brought the right Dumbledore.
A sharp sense of panic and pain crosses your mind. Four Arms has Hack cornered and your troll has no choice but to fight.
"Take the last lesser. I've got to help my friend."
Hack is holding his own, but the Daemon is larger and has a two arm advantage. They're wrestling over the Daemonbone club. Four Arms yanks with inhuman strength. Hack responds by letting go of the club. The move leaves the Daemon off balance and Hack plows into it. They both fall and the troll delivers three hard punches before he is tossed away. You pop in on the other side and try for the blasting curse to the ear canal, but it twists toward you. The curse slams into the side of the head leaving a mark.
You try to apparate away, but you can't. The beast's field locks you in place worse than the gorgon you just faced. The clawed hand reaches out for you, but something jerks you backward.
The overpowered summoning charm feels like it damn near popped your shoulder out of its socket. You turn to see your savior and find a grim faced Bill Weasley. He grabs you and side along apparates with you to the other side of the cave.
"You should talk, Harry! I just changed into a Niffler and hid. You got tossed into a dimensional portal. I thought you were a goner," he answers.
"Long story, mate. Let's finish this damn thing."
"Lead it over there," Bill says.
"The goblin's fresh water supply. It's not exactly consecrated, but it'll do. The stuff Fleur dug up on Daemons says running water can injure them."
"Right then," you quip. "I always wanted to be a fireman." A portion of the cavern falls on the final active lesser and you wonder whether Aberforth got out alive.
You apparate again and hit the Daemon with a patronus to get Four Arm's attention and interrupt the beat down your troll is taking. The spectral jaguar clamps down on one of the things arms and then explodes in a searing eruption of white mist.
"Insect! I'll deal with you in a moment," the Daemon growls. You levitate a fallen Centaur's spear and banish it.
Bill's charmed water spray is about thirty feet short. You add your magic to his efforts and pull it the rest of the way giving your enemy the riot police treatment. The fresh water looks like it is at least hurting the damn thing. Hack manages to brace himself against the side of the cave and deliver a knee strike that pushes the Greater Daemon backwards and escapes.
A battered and bloodied Aberforth appears next to you. He's being supported by none other than Fleur Delacour. He slaps you on the shoulder and takes over the "fire hose."
The French witch's aura is flaring against the field of terror and despair the Greater produces. With a determined look on her face, she unleashes a raven patronus that attacks like a missile.
"Don't let it get too close," you caution her. "You might not be able to apparate away."
"I want to make certain it remembers me," Fleur says. That pensieve memory of the battle in Brazil must have really stuck with her.
She attacks it like a witch gone mad. You add to her fury.
Between the constant flow of water, intermingled with the raven and jaguar patroni, Four Arms is giving ground. You sense the tide turning and the corners of your lip start to twist into a smile. You should know better. If Kwan were still alive, he'd point out what happens when you get cocky.
In this case, the universe offers up a large black cloud entering the cavern from where you'd originally come in. It swallows the dim light present and you feel the unmistakable wave of cold.
The Dementors of Azkaban have come. The level of fear inside the cavern ticks up a notch. The fresh water supply is already starting to ice over.
"Yes," the Greater calls out using its upper left arm to block the fresh water attack. "You are too late. The army I left here now returns. Come to me, my warriors and vanquish my enemies!"
The Dementors circle the cavern, driving Fleur back toward where Bill is standing. The centaurs are disarmed. Aberforth tries to fight them, but he too is pushed aside and dragged away. Hack isn't, but at least two dozen bar his path. Strangely enough, they haven't even tried to lay a finger on you. The phoenixes continue to circle depriving your enemy of the ability to see the future. One lands in front of you and hisses at any Dementor that dares approach.
"What treachery is this?" Four Arms bellows. "Consume them!"
The Dementors herd everyone back except for you and the injured Greater Daemon. A lone Dementor remains. You think it might be Scribe from the cave. Between the freezing temperatures and the dust in the air, your lungs are practically on fire.
It gestures to Four Arms and then to you. The Daemon answers it with a hiss. "You will bow before your superior and obey!"
Folding its arms across its chest, the Dementor looks unimpressed … perhaps even slightly angry.
"Maybe they didn't appreciate you leaving them here," you say trying to buy a little time for a rest. The Dementors know you killed it once before. Maybe some of them are even rooting for you.
Bill shouts and echoes what you are thinking, "They know you beat it and want to see if it is still worthy of their loyalty."
"Fine," the Daemon spits out the word. "I will kill you once and for all and then I will discipline my army."
It's not exactly a fair fight and you had it on the ropes - par for the course you guess. At least it looks injured, burnt from the patronus energy and the fresh running water. A random thought occurs to you, the course is almost over. There's an end in sight.
The Dementor drifts away leaving you facing the hellspawn. It points at your friends and then to you. The message conveyed is simple - you die, or run and they'll kill the others. Great! It'd be nice if they gave you a couple of minutes to come up with a decent strategy.
Ah, fuck it! You've been flying by the seat of your pants this long. Why screw with a good thing.
"Now you die, mortal." It mashes the two sets of clawed fists together.
"You first!" Wasting no time, you cast a jaguar patronus and say, "Come get some!"
As soon as it moves, you apparate over by the dead hydra fully intent on using the few remaining usable heads to your advantage, but you spot something more interesting, a discarded AK-47.
"Accio rifle!" The weapon flies to your outstretched hand. The Daemon is closing.
You levitate it and shout, "Engorgio!" The Russian made rifle swells to three times its size and looks like a bloody floating cannon. You can't exactly aim all that well, but it's an assault rifle and your enemy is close to being as big as the broadside of a barn. Manipulating the charm with a flick of the wand, you pull the trigger.
The swollen rounds exit the barrel as basically a burst of twenty millimeter rounds. Sure the magic dampening field will start shrinking them, but they'll still be large enough to do some damage. The rifle runs out after a half a clip, but those bullets penetrate the Daemon's flesh and rip open fresh wounds.
Using its lower right arm, it takes most of the hits there and that clawed fist is pretty mangled. A couple of rounds did catch it in the leg. It's limping slightly and that's a good thing. Limping means it isn't nearly as fast and you need all the time you can get. You wish you had one of those charmed M-60s Kwan gave the other wizards when you first arrived in the tunnels, but beggars can't be choosers.
You dodge things being tossed by the other arms. It's better than letting it get close.
Not wanting to overstay your welcome, you apparate to the other side of the cavern. Instead of following you, the Greater Daemon stops and begins destroying the hydra's body and stomping on anything you might be able to use. Shit! The beast is on to your strategy. It even stops to finish off the almost dead dragon. It spends the better part of two minutes crushing everything it can find on that side of the cavern.
What now Potter? Think damn it! Think!
Eventually, it turns and glares at you, lips curled in a fearsome display. It's going to do the same thing over here in a few lumbering strides. You summon a quiver of arrows from slain centaur and banish them at the charging Daemon. It's not nearly as inspired as the rifle … or as effective. A minute later you're forced to retreat to the other side and there is precious little left.
Worse still, you are already starting to feel the first signs of Apparater's cramps. It's amazing you haven't splinched yourself already.
"All you are doing is prolonging your worthless existence. Your time grows short, Harry Potter. Do you feel the sands of time running out on you, human?"
Scanning the area, you look for anything useful. About the only thing remaining is Peter's metal arm attached to the charred remains of his body.
It's actually held up pretty well and is only partially disintegrating. You'd expected it to be a pile of goo by now. It is anything but. Before you learned about the metal poisoning downside to that spell, you'd spent several weeks trying to make Kwan a replacement for his lost leg back in the lost city.
You can make blades or arrows out of it. Will that be enough. No! You need something better. Those lesser Dameons were peppered with wounds. Same thing with the Hydra. Four arms can take more physical damage than three of you could throw at him.
Too bad you can't transfigure it into a RPG round or a missile.
A cutting curse detaches it from Peter's corpse and summons it. The fingers have started to slough away. Your wand work straightens the arm and makes a point. The Daemon's proximity forces you to apparate before you can go further.
The pain drives you to the ground, but even so, you continue to stretch and pull on the metal like it's made of clay or taffy. The point is made sharp but weak. You need it to penetrate and break. Boring a hole down the center, you make room for the missile's payload. Your patronus always manages to burn and explode on the surface of the Daemon.
It needs to get through the skin. The magical RPG will do that. Closing the end, you leave just enough room to stick your wand into it.
You insert the wand into the tight hole. There's probably some stupid sex joke in there, but you're too exhausted to make it. Casting the patronus, you pull the wand out and seal the end. The Daemon Killer Mark One is almost ready … just a few more final touches.
Somehow you make it through the next apparition intact, but that's the last one. Quickly! You still need some form of propulsion. You trace a powerful, but temporary blasting curse to the back of the weapon. It'll make a crude booster. It needs a better name. You'll call it The Fawkes. It seems fitting.
No. That won't …
Okay, that should work. You conjure a pair of bat wings for guidance and tie them to the blasting curse. You're sure Bill could come up with something better. Assuming this works, you can ask him
Four Arms is closing. There's a brief temptation to try one last apparition. You've got a few seconds to spare, so you pull yourself upright and look around. It's time to see if the universe was really calling for a champion or a chump. A glance to the flapping, silver bullet next to you tells you that whatever Destiny has, it has a sense of humor.
The Daemon is too close to apparate away now.
You try to think of something witty to say. There was a movie Vernon used to watch, even though Aunt Petunia was deathly afraid of sharks. What did the Yank cop say at the end?
Oh yeah! That's it. "Smile you son of a bitch!"
The weapon flies true. As the wings disintegrate, the blasting curse triggers. The magical rocket lodges in the Daemon's stomach. It crashes to the ground and gets back up to its knees.
"That was the best you could do? Pathetic and weak …"
The monster doesn't finish the sentence. The reason - its left side explodes in a white and reddish mist. It roars in pain and falls over. A flood of ichor pours out of the gash. You cast another patronus, but it is barely coherent.
It lunges forward and claws at you. You shift into your jaguar form and try to leap aside. One of the claws catches you on your flank and spins you around. A second hand descends, but you roll away. It's got you pinned between the goblin wall and the dead dragon. The next thirty seconds is rolling, dodging, and leaping. Yet another "hand" reaches for you but you leap inside the wrist and start running up the arm, like some unholy tree trunk. Your claws grip the scales as though they were bark. Steel-plated bark.
You hope to get to the beast's neck and do some damage, but already the mouth is angling down! Changing direction, you bound off its ribs and scramble onto its back. An arm is already reaching behind for you; damn this thing is quick! Its flexibility is insane. This close it must be able to sense what you're doing. One of the hands closes around you.
Squirming you try to free yourself, but it wraps you up. It squeezes and begins crushing. The pressure intensifies and then slacks. It's struggling just as much as you are. The question is who is going to give out first.
The fist trembles and it looks at you. The goat face contorts in pain and it coughs up a small river of blood. You fall free.
Backing away, you shift back into human form. You're in a bad way, but for a change, your enemy is worse.
Now there's a patronus worthy memory. You'd cast it, but you're saving energy for closing the wound running down the side of your leg. Hopefully, a good healer can prevent it from leaving a scar. Otherwise, your brand new and "scar free" body only lasted a few minutes.
"Enjoy your victory, mortal," it says with a cackle. "One day, you'll die. There will be other opportunities for me."
You force a smile and say, "But you're forgetting something - I just made a weapon that can kill even a Greater Daemon. I'm going to tell the entire world how to make that weapon. If your kind ever manages to set foot on our world again, you'll be beaten. Maybe I'll come to rescue Fawkes one day. I'll bring hundreds of wizards all armed with these weapons. From what I'm told, if you die there, it's for good isn't it?"
"No. It's not possible." The protest is feeble and lacks conviction.
You smile and say, "I hope you can look into the future and see it coming, because you won't be able to stop it."
Seconds later, the Greater Daemon is dead. You wait for a solid minute before limping around the side. Wary of a double cross, you make a point of looking angry and powerful. It's all a big act. Ginny Weasley's pygmy puff could take you right now.
"You have your answer. Now let my friends go and return to Azkaban."
A sigh of relief escapes your lips when they comply. Fleur and Bill apparate to your side and wrap you up in their arms. Hack is lumbering his way in your direction.
It's finally over.
"Are you okay, Harry?" Fleur asks.
"Freedom," you answer echoing the Daemon's words.
"What did you say, Harry?"
Nineteen Weeks Later
The mural in Gringotts is impressive. It shows the moment you arrived at Montanha Santuário through the goblin transit system and shifted out of your jaguar form. Finally, you can say the name of this place aloud. Your eyes linger on those departed; the "ugly as sin" 'breaker Sanchez, Collins – full of swagger and waving his AK-47, Lone Thundercloud – his weathered face full of determination, and even that troll you could never stand named Glurg.
There was some debate about editing out the group of goblins that were part of the assault, but in the end you requested that it be a true and factual account.
The lump in your throat grows as you watch Kwan move about. Only you Bill and Hack remain. To avoid tearing up, you look at the younger version of you, who is frantically emptying the Mossberg at the zombie horde. It's shocking how much can change in a year. The guns run empty and the spells start coming. Several of the onlookers gasp at the speed and power of your spells and the ripples of energy emanating from the holly wand. There's a murmur at the visible aura starting to surround the Harry Potter on the mural as he escorts Hack to close the doors to the bank.
You had a private screening of the artist's work based on the pensieve memories last night, but even so, it still sends a shiver down your spine.
After Hack closes the doors, you continue fighting. First it is from one knee and then from the ground as the others push forward to reach you. Then, the entire portrait resets as a jaguar, an eagle, and several other animals emerge and the fight begins anew. The crowd cheers the artist who points to you and Bill. The two of you do the "political thing" and politely wave to the packed lobby of the same bank where it happened.
Words are said by Minister Dimperio. Fortunately, you've picked up enough of the local tongue that you don't have to rely on the translation spell anymore. No longer an ambassador, you've been given the appointment as "Special Advisor to the Minister." The pay is decent and usually it means having lunch or dinner with the Minister or showing up to one of these dog and pony shows, but you know one of these days he'll want you to do something for him. You're an insurance policy for him – a war hero who has an impressive amount of clout on two or perhaps even three continents and very little clue how to use it.
After the ceremony, you mingle, shake hands, and pose for pictures.
"So did you ever find out if it is Animagus or Animagi?" A female asks you in English. The young woman is blonde and wearing formal robes in a light shade of blue with her press credentials displayed and camera in hand.
You're a bit surprised to see her. "Hello Luna. Shouldn't you be at the beginning of your sixth year right now?"
"No. The school has gotten positively dreadful after they put Snape in charge. Before, he was just hard on three out of the four houses. Now, to make up for it, he's just as much of an arse to the Slytherins as well. I'll self-study and pick up a few NEWTs, or maybe study abroad. Besides, I've heard nice things about Brazil's educational system. Someone I used to know did pretty well for himself down here."
It's hard not to smile at her. "So what brings you to this part of the world?"
"I convinced Daddy that we needed a foreign correspondent. So, I'm doing some traveling, looking for international news and all that. Combine the words Harry Potter with helps dedicate rediscovered Brazilian capitol and you've got something that'll show that Prophet rag a thing or two about sales. Care to answer a few questions for the Quibbler?"
"Normally I'd make you go through my publicist, but what the heck? It's good to see you," you say. A quick check tells you there's still some feelings left, burning like the embers of a forgotten fire. "I read the article you wrote refuting my cousin's account of the events that the Prophet ran."
"He was such an ingrate," she replies with a sour look broken by a slight blush. "Honestly, I can't believe you're related to him."
You shrug it off. "Dudley is lashing out because his parents are dead. I chipped in for an accountant and lawyer to sort out their estate, but that's all he'll ever get from me. Better people than him have failed to take me down. If he's smart, he'll just let it go."
The mural was quite impressive," Luna says changing the subject. She seems very nervous.
"Thanks. The painter wants to do the battle in the city square with the Daemon next, but to be honest, I'm a bit reluctant to show anything that has to do with that monster. It's drawn a bit of criticism, but when you've seen the things I have, you know some of them shouldn't be celebrated." The world, for the most part, believes Voldemort summoned the Daemon and you somehow beat them both. Dudley and the muckrakers at the Daily Prophet tried to imply that you were behind summoning the Daemon. In a way, they're right, but you don't really give a crap.
She notices the people passing by patting you on the back and eager to exchange a handshake. "You've adjusted to the fame better than I'd have thought."
"Well it's not like the whole surviving the death curse thing. That was all my mum. Everything else, from that battle in England and here … I did it. The goblin uprising was much larger here than in England. I returned to my adopted home and helped break the backs of the goblin nations here in South America."
"Do you plan on returning to England?"
"Only for an occasional visit. This is where I belong," you answer with conviction.
"So the mural over there," she gestures at the painting.
"A reminder to every goblin that walks through this lobby of who beat them and who will do it again if they happen to get any stupid ideas." There wasn't a Voldemort or a rift filled with Daemons here, just lots of killing and violence. Following your advice and experience, Minister Dimperio "borrowed" a division of Brazilian infantry and you helped lead the pivotal attack into their caverns. Wizards backed by the thunder of rifles proved to be too much for the goblin tribes of South America. Truth be told, the memory charms on the soldiers took longer than the actual campaign.
Chuckling, you say, "Professor Binns wrote me and asked for a detailed account of what happened down here. I'll be the stuff of boring lectures for the next century!"
"That makes me glad I left when I did," she says. "You seem happier, Harry. It's strange seeing you without the scar."
"I sometimes reach up there just to make sure it's still gone. As for being happier, it's amazing what a couple of months without a life and death situation can do for you." You make a command decision. "C'mon, let's step outside. I'll show you some of the sites."
Luna follows you out onto the main boulevard. The charmed ceiling of the cavern is magnificent. It mirrors the bright and sunny day outside. Some shops are already open and more will be soon. People wave at you and you smile and nod back. Sure the Minister is setting up shop here, but you've somehow become the unofficial mayor of this city. This is your town.
"There was a rumor that you came back to England last month, when Hermione Granger had her baby."
"I'm sure there are all kinds of rumors," you say dismissively. Britain is half a world away and you don't mind it at all.
Luna knows you slept with Hermione. The other rumor is that Hope is Snape's lovechild and that's why the three of them never leave the castle. The truth, of course, is that the mother and daughter's magic control the wards of the castle. Hermione provides most of the power, but Hope is the control. Unfortunately for Severus, a group of goblins got by the rearguard and destroyed the vanishing cabinet. He's stuck there.
Maybe in a few years they can teach little Hope how to lower the wards and let Uncle Snapey out for a walky. Strangely enough, Riddle's curse on the Defense position continues. Since Snape has far too much to do as Headmaster, he had to give up his dream job … and is pretty surly about it. Small wonder that Luna decided to finish her studies abroad.
"If this is for the record, I won't be commenting on that. I'll simply say that Hope Granger is a very beautiful, little miracle. I'm just glad, she was born healthy and into a world currently at peace. I'd like to congratulate my dear friend on graduating early and becoming the new Hogwarts librarian. I think with Hermione's love of books, it is a perfect fit and the school is rather lucky to have her."
"But you didn't come back for Dumbledore's funeral."
"Seemed a long way to go to spit or dance, so I didn't bother. He wrote me a few letters and tried to justify his actions. In the end it was just the empty last words of a dying man who was looking for absolution. I understand he gave his whitewashed version in an interview defending his 'ends justifies the means' tripe, but the most audacious thing in the world he ever did was ask for my forgiveness. Please make certain to quote me on that."
You walk and show her the city square where you once led a zombie horde against the Daemon. At the renovated ministry building, the two of you sit on a bench and chat for what seems like hours. Eventually, an ethereal niffler patronus comes running up to you. It stands on its hind legs like a Midwestern prairie dog and stares at you. A glance at the wristwatch shows you are running late.
"Drat! I'm late for a dinner party. Are you hungry? I'm a partner in a restaurant called De Soto's. The lamb recipe comes all the way from Russia. It's the talk of the town. Plus you'll get to meet the living statue of a conquistador. Hernado would make a great interview."
"Sounds great," she pauses and looks a little nervous, "So is this an impromptu date?"
You smile and lead her in the direction of the restaurant. "What about Looney?"
Luna draws herself up and it looks like she's summoning her courage. "I retired her when I left England. I was a rather daft fool who'd outgrown her, but wasn't ready to admit it to the one person I was crazy about before everything drove us apart. I do want to travel and write things for Daddy's paper, but more than anything else, I was hoping for a fresh start with you. Do I have a chance?"
"How do you know I'm not dating anyone?" You and Sheila Lopez went out a couple of times, but it wasn't working.
"A good reporter always has her sources," she says with a hint of a smile.
"Bill, I assume."
"Indirectly," the young witch concedes. "I went to Fleur. It took a considerable amount of groveling to get back into her good graces. She's rather protective of you. I assume she's your publicist."
"You'd be wrong. She's more of a social secretary and a meddler. It can be irritating at times. So, did you win Fleur's approval?"
"I'm still working on it, but she's warming up to me and has agreed in principle to let me see you if you agree."
"So you're rebelling by being here today?"
"Maybe a little, but everyone needs to be a rule breaker now and again. Plus, I wanted to catch up with you before the next crisis that endangers the world and requires your undivided attention. Anything like that on the horizon?"
Her candor makes you laugh. You like this side of her. She's being honest and humorous without all the foolishness. "No, other than a bunch of ribbon cutting ceremonies, my calendar is rather barren at the moment. Though things are subject to change at a moment's notice. Bill does have a few new leads on some ancient sites that need plunder … err exploring. Getting out and adventuring helps when I feel like I'm getting trapped again. Besides, our breaking crew is a bit unusual."
Luna laughs and says, "Why am I not surprised? What else do you have besides your troll?"
"Did you ever meet Kreacher?"
"No, but Hermione told me about him."
"He's actually dead useful in the field, though a bit unstable. He's almost as handy to have around as Scribe."
"My Dementor publicist."
"Tell me you're joking," she says.
"No. It showed up one day. We'd worked together briefly in England. It likes to write," you say. "Rather bizarre poetry and haikus. Your dad might like it. You might be able to convince it to write a guest column or something."
"How exactly is a Dementor useful?"
"Mostly invulnerable to magic," you answer with a chuckle. "We take down all the wards we can find and then send it in first. Even if we missed something, it's probably not strong enough to hurt a minor daemon. Bill acts like it is cheating, but he's just acting like a git because it was my idea and not his. Also, what in its right mind attacks a camp with a Dementor standing guard?"
"I suppose it also makes getting ice cubes rather easy and makes the jungle heat less oppressive," she quips. "Don't you have to 'feed' it?"
"Brazil has jails. The Minister lets me send Scribe through them when it is hungry." Some of the prisoners might even deserve to be there.
"Sounds interesting. I guess I shouldn't have asked," she replies.
"We're leaving in a couple of days."
"Need someone to document your latest adventures?"
"You really want to try again?"
"More than anything," she answers. She puts her arms on your shoulders and kisses you. It's nice. There aren't fireworks or any kind of soul bond tripe you read about. Just two people trying to reconnect. It's refreshingly normal.
You return it for a few seconds and step back. Taking her hand, you change the tone from light-hearted to serious. "Okay, we'll give it a try, but we blew up rather famously a few months back. There are two people at that party across the street that I've been in previous relationships with. Karina Colastos has since remarried, but we are good friends and I personally recommended Lauren Thundercloud to be the professor of Astronomy when our school reopens next week. I'm fine with giving you a second chance. With everything that was happening, we were insane to even try in the first place. But I'm not interested in jealousy. So, are your up for this?"
"Yes, Harry. I really want to do this. Besides, it's not like you have any other lovechildren running about is it?"
You wince. Lauren's son, Michael "Strongfist" Thundercloud – aka "Cries All Damn Night" has some very distinctive green eyes. His mother seems to be biding her time, but Fleur thinks it is only a matter of time before the Sioux witch makes a move on you. Suffice to say, Fleur and Lauren do not get along … at all. It probably explains why Fleur wants to see if Luna has what it takes to be your girlfriend before Thundercloud tries.
If the most complicated thing in your life is who you're dating, you can live with that.
Every once in awhile, you think about Baba Yaga and wonder if she might have a little surprise in store for you. Best not to even go there – ever.
You'll deal with Fleur later. She has far too much influence over your love life. As for Luna, it's best just to get this out in the open now.
"Funny you should ask that, Luna. It's kind of a long story."
Author's notes -
Thank you all for reading. On the fanfiction front, I hope to have the final installments of The Inner Eye of Harry Potter done before the end of this year. Once that is completed, I'll either do a couple of one shots or short chaptered pieces before I start on the sequel to The Lie I've Lived. It's hard to believe that the first chapter of Bungle was posted in April of 2006. Three and one half years later, we're at the end of what started as an experiment to write a full novel in second person. It's been a fun ride.