Chapter 7: Unintended Consequences
August 8, 1980
Albus Dumbledore projected an air of immortality. Sure he'd been killed in the original timeline, but no one had expected it to happen. People expected the old man to live to be six hundred without the benefit of a Philosopher's Stone.
In this timeline, he seemed not only immortal but also impervious to all the demands that he be sacked from Hogwarts. He'd lost every other position he'd held in the British government, but he couldn't be dislodged from the ancient castle.
"I wonder if he's got blackmail material on the Board of Governors or something…"
Harry was doing something incredibly stupid. He was tired of waiting for Dumbledore's natural fall from grace. He'd decided to help it along.
He had spent the last week, off and on, searching the Forbidden Forest for something he knew had to be there. There was no way a basilisk could grow to 22 meters in length if it didn't regularly feed. The acromantulas had all feared the massive beast, even though they refused to speak its name.
The conclusion: There was an entrance to the Chamber of Secrets somewhere in the Forest.
Harry had narrowed down the places where it couldn't be. The only major areas were near where the acromantulas nested and where a pack of pygmy cerberi were reputed to roam.
Of course the entrance wound up being very near to the acromantulas. Harry had to kill quite a number of them before he was able to have a moment to ponder the strange entrance.
He tried hissing at the rune-inscribed "tree." That did nothing. He looked around the entire thing and tried to decipher some of the runes. Then he conjured a snake and tried speaking to it.
Bang. A massive noise echoed through the Forest. The "tree" trunk opened revealing a deep, curved tunnel swirling into the ground.
Harry vanished the conjured snake and followed the path. The tree sealed itself up and Harry used a simple Lumos to light his way.
It took nearly an hour to move through the filthy tunnel before he arrived in a large room. Harry popped into the Chamber of Secrets from behind one of the statues in the massive room. He'd been so preoccupied with his original battle that he'd, foolishly, never come back to investigate the place.
Harry had had the curiosity beaten out of him at a young age. It was another reason to hate Dumbledore.
Harry opened the main entrance to the chamber and prepared his efforts. He hoped the end results weren't too devastating…. But he didn't really care one way or the other. The only people in the building right now were Filch, Dumbledore, and a few of his rather unhappy 'guests.'
Harry wasn't doing this 'for the greater good.' There was no such justification. He was doing this to ensure that Albus Dumbledore never, ever got involved in the newborn Harry Potter's life.
Pettigrew was handled.
Dumbledore was next.
Snape had left the country – but was fair game if he ever returned.
Trelawney was the only other member of the Deadly Quartet…and Harry was monitoring her.
Today's action would be simple and indisputable and merciless.
Harry walked back into the Chamber of Secrets. He stopped just in front of the revolting statue of Salazar Slytherin. "Speak to me, Greatest of the Hogwarts Four."
Pensieves were handy things. Harry was grateful to have owned one in the old timeline – which aided him in preparing for this moment.
The massive basilisk took only moments to push her way into the room. Harry, of course, had his eyes closed. "Come with me. You have work to do."
"You are not the master."
"I am your new master. I killed the old one."
The snake was quiet. "What am I to do?"
"Follow behind me. I am setting you loose in the school. Attack with your teeth and head. Do not kill with your eyes."
"It is my strongest weapon."
"It does not serve my purpose."
The snake was silent. Harry assumed it meant the snake would do as told. To be honest, he didn't care what the snake got up to. Just so long as the whole thing was devastating.
Harry led the basilisk from the Chamber through the series of caverns that led to the entrance into Hogwarts. Harry drew his wand and sent five powerful bludgeoning curses at some of the old masonry. It was enough to weaken a bit of the floor support, but the rest would have to be done by the basilisk.
"Break into the school. Destroy anything you can."
"I'm not to survive?"
"I understand. It was a long, damp life…"
"Thank you," Harry hissed. He felt a pang of remorse for the suicide mission he'd just condemned the basilisk to follow. He heard the battered against the weakened stones that held the bathroom floor in place. He ran back to the Chamber entrance, went inside, and sealed it. After a thousand years the chamber would no longer be a secret… But they still wouldn't be able to get inside.
Harry retraced his steps after doing a bit of investigation inside the chamber. No hidden rooms – no valuable manuscripts – nothing, save for the basilisk, to consider the space a Chamber of Secrets.
History was funny that way.
The reputation the Chamber had acquired was far greater than its actuality.
Poor Dumbledore and the twelve members of the Board of Governors, who were now meeting in an angry session, wouldn't see the humor in that.
August 17, 1980
Justice, when it came, was swift in the wizarding world. The basilisk had died – and been the subject of three consecutive issues of the Daily Prophet. Dumbledore had been fired as Headmaster moments after the Board determined the entrance point of the beast.
The fact he'd had to kill the thing – and get his mortal wounds healed by his phoenix – was immaterial to the livid Board. A basilisk had been within a few hundred feet of their children and grandchildren. Dumbledore had known or at least suspected…as had hundreds of years worth of Headmasters. But Dumbledore got the blame that day.
The Board had looked at the rest of the candidates and passed over Slughorn, McGonagall, and Hector Wintergreen, the Runes instructor. Professor Drebmier taught Herbology and was one hundred nine years old – and looked older. She never had a shot. The consensus candidate became Filius Flitwick, Charms Professor and former Dueling Champion.
He would be the first 'half breed' ever made Headmaster of Hogwarts. Very few people complained. Most of the ones likely to do so were in Azkaban.
Harry closed up the newest edition of the Prophet – which discussed in detail a number of bizarre, probably true allegations about Dumbledore's years as a Transfiguration professor – and wondered what sort of shenanigans a free-in-the-wind Dumbledore might get up to.
He wondered if he needed to start tracking the old man like he did with Trelawney…
Suddenly he was up out of his chair. He hadn't checked on the recordings made by Trelawney's necklace in a few days. He moved quickly through the rooms of the White Estate until he had his hands on the recording crystals.
A quick tap of his wand and he was listening. The knot in Harry's stomach began to dissipate…until disaster struck.
The old fraud had just summoned a house elf and was half way through asking for a cheap bottle of goblin wine when she began choking and sputtering.
The voice that came out of her mouth afterward was one Harry knew well: the voice of Fate.
"The Master of Time and Death unhinged the world a bit.
He lifted the yoke of Fate from one so young and placed
The bit into his own unyielding mouth. For good or ill?
One line of time has ended; the Dark Lord was vanquished.
Countless time lines unravel and unveil their dark borders.
Was the Dark Lord the worst possible Fate a world could
Have endured? Terror, pain, fear, and blood approach.
Let the Master know. His battles are not ended; his young
Charge is not yet made safe from the cruel whims of Time."
Harry listened to the demonic voice a dozen times before he was sure of every word. The meaning was all too clear.
Harry the baby wasn't safe exactly, but the new prophesy didn't condemn an infant to carry the fate of a nation.
Harry the elder still had work to do – "terror, pain, fear, and blood." It sounded like someone was playing from Voldemort's rulebook. He speculated on who: all the known Death Eaters from the original timeline were dead or imprisoned. A few dozen new ones had been unmasked, but there were no guarantees the Aurors had caught them all.
Was it a Death Eater building a new power base?
Was it a Dark Lord come from abroad to conquer Britain?
What about those Death Eaters talking about Voldemort's wife and child. Was that connected somehow? Would this woman rise up in her husband's place?
Was it a threat no one suspected…a more competent sort of Fudge climbing the ladder inside the Ministry or a mad Potions Master about become Mr. Hyde?
Harry had, according to the prophecy, brought the mess to pass. He felt obligated to see it through to rights. He thought now of a lesson he'd learned when that woman's accountant uncle, a squib more or less expelled from the Weasleys, had contracted cancer.
Harry had cured the cancer in his lung. But then the man had still died four months later of a completely different cancer in his kidney. What had the Muggle doctor explained to Arthur? 'Cancers get big and effectively stunt or kill off all the other cancers in a body. When we get rid of the main cancer sometimes the other ones can begin to grow again. Sometimes they grow with a vengeance.'
Voldemort had been a massive cancer. Had he been restraining this new threat? And his death enabled it to be free? It seemed possible. It was unfortunate.
But what to do?
Waiting was not Harry Potter's strength.
August 27, 1980
He'd agonized about this decision for days before he committed himself. Harry Potter was personally going to break into the Department of Mysteries for a second time in his life.
He wasn't supposed to be in this time…and now there was an official prophesy logged in the Department of Mysteries about him. Talk about being subtle.
He couldn't decide if it was vague enough not to be noticed…or ominous enough to be the talk of the Department. Judging by the way he'd been scared at hearing the horrifying words, Harry leaned toward the prophecy being the talk of the department. He didn't really believe that Unspeakables didn't have a method for learning about the contents of prophecies – someone had to initially record them, after all. Were they obliviated of the knowledge once the spheres were made?
Or perhaps not… After all someone had amended the prophecy between "Voldemort ?" to "Voldemort + Harry Potter." Someone knew the events of that prophecy well enough to modify the tag on it after Halloween 1981 of the original timeline.
Harry had to go in… Or could he use his Imperius trick again? Hell, all his plans were changing moment to moment. He really did not want to go into the Department of Mysteries ever again.
Harry changed his mind…again.
Instead of using the hairs he'd plucked from one Neil Bullrush, an Unspeakable in the Hall of Prophecies, Harry decided to use Neil Bullrush.
The man didn't need to touch the prophecy. He needed only to knock it off the shelf…accidentally.
Harry apparated to where he knew Mr. Bullrush used the Floo to enter the Ministry. As an Unspeakable the aging wizard refused to have a Floo connection in his own house – a security risk.
Harry waited for nearly thirty minutes before the short, gray wizard appeared. Harry waited a moment to ensure the area in front of the Green Goblin pub outside Ottery St. Catchpole was clear. He stunned the Unspeakable and then apparated away with him.
Neil Bullrush would be a couple minutes later than usual to work this morning. He'd also be extremely klutzy.
The man was bound quickly with ropes once Harry got him to a clear open field in Hertfordshire. No one would be looking for a wizard here. Harry pocketed the man's wand and did a search for portkeys or other magical artifacts. He had nothing, a rather lax approach to personal security.
Harry woke the wizard up. Then he cast the Imperius Curse before Neil Bullrush had any clear idea what was going on.
"You will answer my questions."
"Yes," came the hollow voice.
"You work in the Hall of Prophesies?"
"Yes, most days."
"Did you register a new prophecy about a week ago, referencing the 'Dark Lord'?"
"Merlin, yes. It was awful."
"You know the contents?"
"All the staff heard it. To think Trelawney of all people…"
Harry stopped the man. The whole situation was worse than he'd expected, worse than he'd feared.
"Does anyone outside the Department of Mysteries know?"
"No. No outsiders have been inside the Department in months…"
"How many Unspeakables are there?"
"How many Unspeakable have heard about the prophecy?"
"Forty or fifty, I'd guess."
"Can any of them talk about it?"
"Not voluntarily. Not about anything they hear in their work…"
Harry's mind flew over his options…all the possibilities. He could destroy the sphere, but everyone already knew it. (Just like all the Unspeakables likely knew of the prophecy concerning Harry and Voldemort…the bastards.)
Would it be worthwhile to have it destroyed? If it was the only copy, then yes. But the words were also inside forty or fifty people. People who might wear trinkets to prevent Memory Charms…people who would be missed if they had accidents.
"Is there a ledger where all the prophecies get recorded?"
"I want you to remove the tag from the new prophecy, but do not touch the sphere. Leave it in place. Remove the tags from another hundred spheres…destroy those tags, too. Modify or destroy the places in the records where the Trelawney prophecy appears. Can you do that?"
"Make it look accidental if possible. Don't get caught."
The dull-eyed wizard nodded. Harry released him and finally said, "At seven thirty this evening, you will develop a high fever. It will last for three days. Check yourself into St. Mungo's tomorrow morning, as early as you can go. As soon as you walk into the door, your will shall return to you, but you will lose the last two weeks worth of memories…"
The wizard apparated away. He wasn't even struggling against the mental bond Harry had temporarily created with him. What was with all the weak wizards who worked for the Department of Mysteries? Were they the best the Ministry could find…
He apparated back to the White Estate and hoped he'd made the right decision. Destroying the prophecy could attract attention. Arranging for the prophecy to be lost among tens of thousands of other spheres wouldn't be as dramatic…and the dulling effects of time would do the rest.
Eventually people would forget. Harry hoped it was enough.
September 1, 1980
A gray bearded man sat in his office deep inside the Ministry of Magic. He was appointed by no Minister of Magic. He answered to no Wizengamot Elder. He was a bit of a law unto himself.
Everything that happened inside the Department of Mysteries was his responsibility. Colleagues called him Tasker, just as every previous head of the department was known as Tasker. His wife knew none of this, of course. Wives were never told. She believed he still held a position with the Committee on Experimental Charms.
Tasker did, of course, continue to work for the Committee…in an advisory capacity. Most of his time was spent on Level Nine. Heading the Department of Mysteries was a lot of work.
Today, and for the last several weeks, Tasker had been attempting to put together the pieces of a mystery.
That locket mess – what with the Slytherin locket exploding when that poor man had been working on it – hadn't seemed too odd at the time. But things only kept getting stranger.
The disappearance of a few people, including the recent Hogwarts graduate Peter Pettigrew, was remarked upon on a few other jots of paper. He also had the recent killings of those who had spoken before the Truth Commission written down.
He had a newspaper clipping with the image of a massive dead basilisk.
Then he had a page out of the Prophecy Ledger. The entire page's contents were destroyed – seventeen entire prophecy spheres were now inaccessible to his researchers because of the error.
It seemed the most interesting recent prophecy concerning Voldemort and someone labeled the Master of Time and Death – a much more disturbing title, Tasker thought, than Voldemort – had utterly disappeared onto one of the hundred-plus shelves in the Hall of Prophecies.
People who had made their way up the ranks of the Unspeakables didn't believe in luck or coincidence or chance. They believed in the actions of man…in the own things they had done to secure their positions.
Tasker thought he saw the glimpse of one or more men in these latest happenings. What they meant, he didn't know. Could it be the rise of a new dark lord? Setting a basilisk on a rampage seemed to suggest it, but doing so when Hogwarts was empty seemed to say something else…
The clues were very confused.
Slytherin's locket had obviously been cursed with a variety of dark enchantments, but no one had determined what they were. That prophecy sphere spoke of a new darkness…and it too was gone. How had someone twice infiltrated his department, assuming these 'accidents' weren't accidents. The people who knew about the locket wouldn't know how to access the Prophecy Register…
Were there other clues Tasker hadn't identified? And what did a new Hogwarts graduate have to do with any of this? And why did the Prophecy speak of 'unhinging the world' and 'countless time lines.' Did they now have a time walker in their midst? It was rumored Merlin could move forward and backward through time, moving and changing things at will… Tasker had never believed stories like that before, but he'd never had such odd things happen. He'd never heard a prophecy like the one from a month ago.
Tasker decided to devote some resources to the problem. Perhaps he'd find some more clues. Perhaps he'd uncover some additional oddities or find a new Mystery to research and solve.
Perhaps he'd get to the bottom of all this nonsense. He didn't like people mucking around inside his department. No, not at all.
September 20, 1980
Septimus Crouch, a distant relation to that awful, imprisoned Barty Crouch, apparated onto the road outside what was listed as an old magical estate. The Department had recently noticed renewed magic emanating from the place.
Like all mysteries, this one deserved an explanation.
He surveyed the grounds. Everything looked neat and tidy. Either the place was unoccupied, but had a groundskeeper, or someone had taken up residence in the former White Estate.
Septimus pulled out an old Invisibility Cloak and walked up the long road to the massive building. A Muggle named Thomas Franklin owned the place…and there was definitely someone living here. No automobile…
Septimus was excited. He hadn't had a genuine magical mystery in quite some time.
He opened the door and walked inside the building. He wordlessly cast a few detection spells. There was definitely faded magic inside here – some wards of ancient design and a few other unclear magical signatures.
He walked down the hallway until he came to the first set of wards. He walked inside…and was immediately taken back to his days at Hogwarts when Madam Purcell had taught him to read tea leaves. Septimus didn't have an ounce of divinatory ability, but the class had been amusing, far better than History with the young, dreadfully boring Binns.
Septimus never noticed another person sneak up behind him. He never even saw the wand that stunned him.
He slumped forward, unable to move. His investigation had come to an abrupt end.
Harry Potter had felt the other wizard's presence the moment he set foot on the White Estate – the wards didn't keep anyone out, but they did warn Harry as to what was going on.
"It seems someone has cottoned onto 'Thomas Franklin' buying the White Estate…" Harry was working through the implications out loud.
September 21, 1980
It took Harry a while to seal up the White Estate and head for his safehouse with his stunned prisoner in tow.
He would obviously need to hide himself better if he'd already been tracked down. Hiding in plain sight seemed like a good idea, but it rarely worked as planned. Too many fiction writers had embraced the concept…leaving even wizards the world over underprotected.
He bound his prisoner into a chair and administered truth serum before waking the man.
"What's your name?"
"Septimus." He clopped his mouth shut to avoid saying anything else.
"Last name or first?"
Harry had to hold back a smile. The veritaserum was working, but this man had been taught how to work within the truth serum to say as little as possible.
"What's your last name?"
"Any relation to Bartemius Crouch?"
Harry decided to use loaded questions as much as possible. "How long have you worked for the Department of Mysteries?"
Harry nodded briefly. "Why were you investigating the White Estate?"
"We investigate mysteries." Even through the drug, the man's tone was hateful.
"Explain the mystery that brought you there."
A moment passed. He was considering what to say…. "Old, formerly magical estates rarely get new magic flowing into them."
"You track magic throughout Britain?"
"Why didn't you track Unforgivables during the war?"
Harry got off track for a moment; this was a genuine curiosity of his. Why had the Ministry fared so poorly in both timelines when dealing with Voldemort. "Explain why the Ministry didn't act on the information."
"It never left the Department…"
Harry gritted his teeth. "You tracked the use of the Unforgivables. Other offices tracked other information, including underage magic, and no one shared. Correct?"
Harry loathed bureaucracies. It was a shame that he'd helped foist his grandfather into heading the current mess of a Ministry of Magic. Nothing could destroy a bureaucracy: things could infect and twist them, but never destroy and end them, save for the ending of a civilization.
"How many mysteries outside the department are people dispatched to investigate in any given month?"
"It varies. Five or twenty…"
That was a low number. The name Thomas Franklin and the White Estate might stay inside people's memories for quite some time…plus there was this new prophesy in effect. Harry did not like his life right now.
"What did you expect to find at the White Estate?"
"A magical vagrant, perhaps. Or a clutch of Death Eaters living there. We haven't caught them all, of course."
What should he do, Harry wondered. He'd somehow attracted the attention of the Unspeakables – but not for the right reasons. Harry had used the Imperius Curse on two Unspeakables to force them to steal from or otherwise sabotage the Department of Mysteries, but this man was here investigating merely why an old magical estate was putting out magic again.
It was the littlest things that foul up the world…. Harry frowned.
"Why were you looking at the White Estate in the first place?"
"The Head Unspeakable, Tasker, had us comparing every instance of magic with known wizards and witches. We're investigating every place not known to the Ministry as the registered home of a magical person…"
Harry felt a smile creep across his face. Perhaps these people were looking for him – for the right reasons.
"I've never understood Tasker."
"It was a random decision to have Unspeakables searching Britain for unexplained magical signatures?"
"If you say so…"
Harry had to chuckle to himself. Whoever had trained Septimus Crouch in anti-interrogation techniques had done a good job. But very few could resist the Imperius Curse.
The curse settled into Crouch. One could resist Veritaserum if one knew how to answer little or misdirect. No one – save those who could throw off the Imperius itself – could avoid answering under the Curse.
"Tell me why you came to the White Estate."
"Tasker is looking for someone."
"Someone who had been interfering in the internal department operations."
Confirmation. It made Harry extremely nervous. "Why the White Estate?"
"It's one of nearly a hundred places we're looking into…"
That made Harry feel a bit safer. It had been sheer bad luck that the White Estate had been added onto a bureaucratic list.
"Tell me who this Tasker is."
"I do not know. No one does."
Harry believed that. There had been a Tasker at the Ministry when Harry had been Head Auror – and no one knew who that man was, either.
Harry stunned Septimus Crouch. He had to think and decide on his next actions. It wouldn't be right just to kill or maim this man because of his unluckiness in drawing the White Estate. But he couldn't just Memory Charm the man and send him on his way.
Memory charms could be broken, of course, and folks like Unspeakables might even be regularly tested for them.
He's used the Imperius Curse to force two Unspeakables to forget what they'd done for Harry…but no one had expected them to have any memories of breaking into the Department of Mysteries. Septimus Crouch was on an official mission – he couldn't just return with a huge hole in his memories, could he?
He needed to think… He was being hunted and didn't intend to get caught. He had to slow things down a bit, be cautious, be cagey.
October 31, 1980
Harry Potter had gone into exile in America temporarily. Septimus Crouch was currently inside a magical trunk accompanying Harry. He still had not decided how to handle the wizard who'd come to the White Estate. There were no good solutions…. The man was alive but was no longer free to do as he pleased, not unconscious in a trunk like a certain Auror Harry had known much earlier in his life.
He sat in the small apartment he'd arranged in Queens. This was the first time he'd set foot inside since he'd arranged for it.
He was doodling on a scrap of paper as he tried to decide how to make it safely back into Britain. He really wanted to lower his profile…but hiding at the White Estate hadn't exactly worked, had it?
Perhaps he needed a more public persona, one registered with the Ministry, one no one would think to investigate….
It shouldn't be too hard to create some credentials that would withstand scrutiny, should it?
Harry stood up from his rickety table and threw a coat on. He needed to walk off his excess energy. He decided to head over to Magister Avenue, the wizarding section of New York City. It was only a few dozen blocks. In the cold morning air it would help to calm him and clear his mind.
He walked into the wizard library first. He was trying to finalize a few details on his new persona before venturing back into Britain.
He grabbed a stack of annuals from Australia's Gandyturn School of Magic and was heading for a table when he spotted a copy of the Daily Prophet.
He almost dropped the books from his hands.
Kantor Line Massacred; Werewolf Greyback Involved, Killed
He snatched up the newspaper and read. He hadn't thought of Daphnis Kantor – Voldemort's rumored wife – or her child in quite some time. The Death Eaters had been premature, it seemed, in assuming her dead.
A bloody scene confronted this reporter, Rita Skeeter writes, when I arrived at the Kantor Estate in Moribund Westley, Devonshire, yesterday. Seventeen members of the Kantor family, including famous dark witch Daphnis Kantor, were found dead. Ranging in age from one hundred-plus to a toddler still in nappies, the entire Kantor line is now extinguished.
Voldemort's child…Voldemort's child was dead. But, this massacre was another jolt to the calm. First the witnesses at the Truth Commission – then the prophesy that few knew about – then this.
The only sign about who might have committed this heinous act was the presence of the vile werewold Fenrir Greyback, known for his attacks on children and his support for the vanquished You-Know-Who. No Auror would comment officially, but several mentioned that they firmly believed Greyback had been part of the attacking force.
What no one at the Ministry of Magic has yet suggested is a motive for this attack. While much of the Kantor family remained neutral in the last war, a few notables followed the call of the Ministry and a few followed You-Know-Who, especially Daphnis Kantor, rumored paramour of You-Know-Who himself. I, for one, do not expect a satisfactory answer any time soon given the general intellectual apathy of the entire Auror force – but I know my rabid readers would wish for a clear and immediate answer as to who has done such a thing….
Harry Potter also wanted an answer to that question.
The prophesy Sybil Trelawney had uttered was undoubtedly in force. History had changed, but it hadn't changed into peace. Something Harry had done or not done in this new timeline had unsettled something. Voldemort was surely dead, but a new form of evil had just firmly announced itself.
Something wicked this way comes.
Harry sat in the library, his Australian research into possible new identities forgotten. He tried to piece together what the newspaper article meant…and got nowhere. It was maddening.