I don't own Harry Potter
Liberal Politics and the Era of Feel-Good Deception
Paul Greengrass, the electrifying, charming, charismatic politician. Paul Greengrass, the breath of fresh air, the suave Senior Undersecretary, the speaker of the decade. Paul Greengrass, just what magical Britain needs.
That is what we've been hearing all along, isn't it? Ask the typical teenager or twenty-something and they'll give you a description very similar to the one above. What draws people our age to Paul Greengrass? Why does practically everyone under the age of thirty seem unified in the belief that Paul Greengrass should (and will) be the next Minister of Magic?
It is important to first explore what draws young voters to the PPB in the first place. Why don't we see such support for the PNRP? Younger wizards and witches are used to change; change is all they know. Fresh out of Hogwarts and new to the world, they watch mesmerized the passing tides of life. When someone speaks of change, they listen. Even if it's not broken, they are more than willing to fix it.
Young people like the PPB because the party proclaims that morality is too relative to really get in a huff about. No child enjoys the rules imposed on him by his parents - the same goes for the government. Who is the government to tell me if I can do this ritual or that, if I have to take that horribly biased Darts Arts reeducation class, or what I can do with my wand. If you want complete moral relativism – and young people usually do – then visit your friends at the local PPB Headquarters. Try not to trip over the bone white masks.
The first, most obvious reason anyone would vote for Greengrass is that he is a pureblood with damning ties to some very shady characters. Right? In such an oversensitive, pluralistic generation, young people make every effort to appear as diverse and tolerant as possible. Doesn't it make sense to vote for a pureblood supremacist so as not to appear hatemongering?
If that's not it, then what is it? Could it be that he has some great policies stashed away somewhere? It must be all the relaxing he plans to do on curse restrictions. But alas, we'll never know - his supporters don't seem to either.
If it isn't his past, or his substance, then what is it? Greengrass is a great speaker with utopian ideas. Being surrounded by great speakers in the schools of magic, young people love good rhetoric. They love to be told that they can do anything as long as they are given the opportunity; they love to be told that it's not their fault they are in a bad situation; they love to be told the silly government keeps them down by restricting their creative magics. And that is exactly what Paul Greengrass preaches. (We don't have time to discuss what his old master preached).
In the end, the reality remains that Greengrass has been rated as the most liberal official in office. He barely escaped charges in the last war. He favors loosening the Trace, relaxing ritual restrictions, hampering the arrests of suspected Dark Wizards in the name of rights, and treating the heinous criminals of our society in psychological facilities. Don't call them prisoners. Sorry lady, the man who tortured your little girl to death is a patient now.
Why is it only the old guard, the thousands of men and women who stood guard against evil when the dark forces threatened our existence, that support what may be our only hope?
Look past the charisma and youth appeal of this man and see him for what he really is – a liberal Dark Wizard who's slithering his way into office.
"Neville owns Goldstein too." Daphne said somewhat flippantly, shoving the paper back into a narrow satchel by her side. She had just finished doing inventory on the cadavers he had been working on. Or should have been. He had been feeling sluggish and tired. "Not a small loss either. He wrote all our best editorials in the Prophet."
Harry remembered Tonks pointing the former Ravenclaw out, describing him as religious admirer of Paul Greengrass. The Senior Detective was getting disturbingly good at making pawns for himself. Things were slowly slipping out of his understanding and control, and he wasn't sure if he liked where everything was headed.
His introduction was set to occur the next day, but already he could feel the tendrils of disaster following his every moment. Neville had pulled him in his office again, demanding more information. The man hadn't at all mentioned his report, which left Harry in an uncertain position. He didn't know which was worst – his report being wrong or right. A conspiracy to murder and impersonate top PNRP would only further destabilize the political climate.
"Is there any possibility my report is actually true?" Harry asked after a moment of thought. "It'd be devastating to the PPB if your people were somehow involved in this."
Daphne frowned. "Our people, Harry. And as much as I hate to say it, it could be a fringe dark group that wants us in power to make life easier for them. We don't have any illusions about our goals. Decriminalization of all those spells and a more tolerant approach to magic will unfortunately end up benefiting some undesirable groups. It's just that we feel the draconian measures in place today are stifling to progress and take away the freedoms of everyday people. We can't give up freedom for security. Nor can we let fundamentalist dark wizards ruin our name by working under our banner."
Harry watched his superior carefully, somewhat impressed by the almost perfect reiteration of the party's platform. She had a frustrated, angry look on her face, fists clenched in helplessness.
"Why don't you report it to the Aurors?" He asked, already knowing the answer.
She shook her head. "I can't just give them a list of names. They'd go on a rampage and give them all a hard time. Father gave me and several other trusted people information on all the possible perpetrators earlier today – We're to explore the likelihood of any of these people being behind the attacks and remove them from the organization before they taint our legitimate reputation. Once they're disengaged, we'll give whatever information we have to the Aurors."
She moved closer to him, grinning. "That'll destroy any chance Neville has on ruining our campaign. The only possible thing that could drag us down the polls is if Minister Quinn himself threw his support to Neville. He's the only Ministry official whose opinion really matters. Fortunately, the man's neutral to a fault and guarded by Hit-Wizards against any sort of magical manipulation."
Harry found himself not sharing her intense enthusiasm. He was getting tired of all the political intrigue, the backstabbing, the plotting… More than anything he wanted his wand back and real dark wizards to drag into the harsh, crimson-tinged light of justice. The baseless, terrified whispers of the dark arts and evil made him want to sneer.
"So we have a clear shot at victory. And then?" Victory. What did it mean for him? He'd have done his part in avoiding a monstrous government from oppressing the people. But he'd forgotten where he'd come from. This wasn't his home. He wasn't married, Ron wasn't dead, and Voldemort was still out there. He had yet to fulfill the prophecy. The thought of abandoning what defined his very life unsettled him.
"And then, we'll celebrate." Daphne said, leaving no doubt about what she meant. Something hot and heavy filled his mind as he remembered beads of sweat clinging to alabaster skin, her writhing body sinuously entangling his own, drawing him deeper and deeper into oblivion.
It had been three days, but he could scarcely think about anything else. It shamed him, burned his very soul every time he crept into bed after Hannah had slept and left before she woke.
She looked in his eyes, the purple orbs capturing him whole and leaving him breathless. "There's nothing to be ashamed of, Harry. You came back, ego bruised and left wanting by your own wife…"
Bruises in his back from Hannah's spell flared in pain at the thought, and he felt a surge of annoyance at the presumptuousness in her voice. The belief that she understood.
"Get out of my head," he snarled suddenly, pushing her back to the counter. It wasn't a literal accusation, but then again – without magic, he'd have no idea if she was rifling through his memories. Regardless, he didn't like the thought of anyone trying to rationalize him.
Daphne caught herself quickly, looking as if she had expected the outburst. Pushing her hair back, she dropped the satchel to the ground and smoothed her robes, looking at him somewhat demurely.
"You don't have to keep it in Harry. I'm here. I can talk back." She spoke again quickly, interrupting his angry retort. "I know it's not her fault. It's a terrible burden she carries and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. A curse that binds her tongue as long as her very heart beats. It's sick what they did to her, and I don't blame her for the cause of your ills. But you have to look after yourself. Don't live in misery out of some misplaced sense of duty."
He couldn't deny her words, but something in him did feel something for Hannah. The information about the curse that had struck her mute made him swell with sympathy. He didn't want her to get hurt. He wanted to see her happy. But was that truly love? Or was it a sympathetic pity that came out of a sense of obligation to make up for Dr. Potter's sins?
Daphne walked up to him once more and left a chaste kiss on his cheek before disappearing out the door.
Harry's eyes remained on the spot where she had been standing. He rubbed his eyes and massaged his temples, feeling a headache coming. It took him several minutes before he noticed the satchel left behind. Neville's threats drifting through his mind, he reached into the simple looking bag and pulled out several folders.
He flipped through the papers inside, seeing information on dozens and dozens of men and women. Names, professions, addresses, and known associations were all neatly printed on the thick, handwritten parchment. A small wizarding photo was attached to each sheet, revealing scores of confused looking people.
Harry doubted his own ability to cast duplication charms – his wand wasn't even in his pocket anymore. Stacking the folders back on each other, he left the examination room and dropped the papers on Colin's desk, barking a brief command to the busily working boy and retreating to his office.
Colin brought two identical stacks back in only a few minutes, nodding his head at Harry's thanks. Dropping one set into the satchel, he gave the bag to Colin and instructed him to give it to Daphne the next time she stopped by.
The information inside would hopefully be enough to hold Neville over for a few weeks. That would give him some time to finally do some more research on his own lack of magic and find some answers. He still had hardly a clue on how he'd arrived and had no hope of returning until he got his magic back.
Once the elections finished he would be free of Neville. An elected Greengrass would certainly allow him a leave of absence. He considered visiting Professor McGonagall, or even Dumbledore's portrait if the man had awakened yet.
Shaking himself free of thoughts of his own time, he pulled out a fresh sheet of parchment and began to write out a short speech of endorsement for his introduction, promising himself he'd take the rest of the day off and sleep.
The next day had Harry wake up feeling energized and slightly excited. With hardly a glance at the sleeping figure by his side, he leapt to his feet and made himself ready for a public appearance. Dressed in the best robes he could find, he clipped on his badge proudly and flooed to the Ministry.
The introduction was to be sudden and with little prior notice. The press was to be notified a mere fifteen minutes before, allowing the entire event to be set in secrecy. Harry knew it was all for naught.
He tried to keep away from Neville, but the man had taken him to his office shortly after he had arrived. Hermione Granger stood in the corner, sipping on some water. She ignored his glances completely, in favor of showering Neville with a smile as he sat down behind his desk.
The Senior Detective squeezed her hand briefly before turning his gaze to Harry, bringing the stack of papers Harry had copied out on his desk. "You've been a good little spy for giving this report to me."
Harry's good mood started to deteriorate rapidly. "So I'm done."
Neville ignored him, grabbing Hermione's hand again and looking at her in the eye. "I admit I had some reservations, but this intelligent witch here convinced me you would dance to my tune. And be thankful to her, Harry, I had planned on simply exposing you and getting rid of another PPB supporter."
Hermione grinned back like an enamored puppy, seemingly totally engrossed by her former housemate. Harry could scarcely believe it. She blamed him for Ron's death and moved on to like Neville? The man was married too – it wasn't at all like Hermione to act in such a manner.
But this wasn't his Hermione. He had to remind himself, like he did for everyone else in this world – they were not the same people. Time had changed them, and for most, it had been for the worst.
"And what a dance," Harry said darkly, "I've given you everything you've asked for. If you don't have any more gloating to do, I'll be on my way. Some of us have legitimate work to do."
Neville squeezed Hermione's hand once more before turning his full attention back to him. Harry noticed a wedding band on her ring finger as his hands returned to the desk. It matched Neville's own.
He smirked sardonically. "Legitimate work, of course. My wife and I will be looking forward to your groveling today."
Noon found Harry standing in front of a gathering crowd before a large dais. The newly created platform sat in front of the marble steps of Gringotts, in the most popular locale of Diagon Alley. Curious witches and wizards in heavy winter garb gathered around the event, taking a break from their routine shopping to investigate. The press began arriving moments later with sharp cracks.
"If father waits any longer there won't be anyone alive left to present you to," Daphne muttered, huddling closer to his side.
Harry spared a cautious glance around him before tapping himself slightly with his wand. His eyebrows furrowed in concentration, a slight growl leaving his throat with each try. Daphne pulled her cloak around herself tighter as a frigid wind rolled through the Alley. She glanced at his futile efforts to cast a warming charm on himself and brought out her own wand.
"Here, let me."
She made to cast the spell before Harry slapped her wand away, giving her an irritated look. Closing his eyes for a moment, he gathered his will and spoke the charm out loud, forcibly stressing each syllable. The tip of his wand glowed as the charm spread through his body, spreading warmth and returning feeling to his freezing extremities.
Minerva McGonagall strode toward him from the street, a rare smile gracing her otherwise stern features. The current headmistress' newly graying hair was still pulled into the same bun, her cloak and robes the standard black. She hadn't changed much at all.
"Professor!" He called out, moving over to greet the older witch. His desire to meet the woman seemed fulfilled. He had been troubled by the fear he was no longer on good terms with the woman. And if he had been, there remained the problem of getting a reason to visit her in the first place. Headmasters and Headmistresses rarely entertained personal guests without pressing reasons.
McGonagall's lips quirked slightly. "You call me Professor even to this day, Harry. You left Hogwarts almost a decade ago." She clasped her hands around his, shaking it slowly.
"Minerva just doesn't capture you Professor," Harry replied with a grin, "I'm afraid I'll always be a student when I'm around an educator such as yourself."
McGonagall blinked for a moment before giving an approving look. "I have to say, Harry, that's a new explanation I haven't ever heard before. The flattery was a good touch."
"Office life has taught me something then." Harry said. He couldn't leave out the note of regret in his voice.
The older woman didn't fail to notice it. "Life behind a desk is more taxing than it appears. Especially, I'd imagine, for someone with your history. Between us, I think you would have been happier keeping to your work in the muggle world. They're much more sensible. " She smiled faintly, as if remembering something. "How is Hannah? I haven't seen her in years."
Harry's reply caught in his throat as thoughts of his wife swam though his mind. "She's… she's fine, doing well at St. Mungos."
"Such a lovely girl, Harry. She was Pomona's favorite for as long as anyone remembers. If you won't come to Hogwarts, then at least tell her to visit."
"I will, Professor." Harry said after recovering his composure. He didn't want to talk about Hannah any more than necessary. "What brings you here?"
His former Transfiguration teacher smiled sadly, her eyes losing focus as she recalled something. "It was Albus. His portrait, I mean. He's been insisting I pay some attention to politics. Says it's fitting for a Headmistress to pay attention to things outside her castle for once." She looked at him for a few moments before lowering her voice. "He misses you, you know. You're all he talks about. The man's been on the wall for ten years now and it's still his favorite topic. I don't understand why you won't see him."
Harry was saved from having to reply by the arrival of Daphne, who had finally decided to walk over and greet her former Professor.
"Professor McGonagall! How good to see you!" She exclaimed, subtly returning to her position by Harry's side.
"Miss Greengrass, the pleasure's all mine. How is your father?" She had returned to her stiffer demeanor, smiling and nodding at all the right moments. If she had noticed Daphne's close proximity to him she didn't mention it.
"He's very excited about today. He can hardly wait to make the announcement." Daphne said, looking over her shoulder to see the gathering PPB officials on stage. The elder Greengrass hadn't made an appearance yet.
"I'm eager to receive it." McGonagall said, though her tone indicated anything but. She looked back to Harry. "Speaking of receiving, Hagrid wanted to let you know that Hedwig has hatched yet another chick."
"Another?" Harry echoed. He hadn't at all thought about his snowy owl. He remembered entrusting her to Hagrid's care before he started to hunt Voldemort, but hadn't thought about her at all since.
McGonagall seemed amused. "Yes, another. The man was so happy he wanted to send Hedwig herself to tell you. First good news he had for me in such a long time. You've heard of the unicorns being poached, no doubt."
"I wouldn't mind paying her a visit. Well, her and her brood now. How many does she have now?"
The Headmistress shook her head in exasperation. "More than Molly Weasley. Busy as she is, though, I'm sure she'd be happy to see you again. We all would. Hogwarts needs a Potter in its halls every once in awhile, and so far you and Hannah haven't provided us with any."
"As direct as ever, Professor," Harry managed, feeling an alien sense of despair at the very thought. It took him a few moments to realize his former Transfiguration professor was speaking again.
"…found early in my life how easily you could make enemies by thinking yourself and others too clever. Subtleties are lost on too many people. It's best to be straightforward."
"I sense a jab at a certain group of people, Professor." Harry glanced at an amiable looking Daphne, who, ironically, had missed the reference to her father's profession.
The sudden cheering of the crowd drowned out any further conversation. Harry turned to see the platform filling with well dressed members of the PPB. Wizards and witches of all ethnicities stood at the back, each of them representing a certain district of the country written above their heads. As each member stepped to his or her place, people in the crowd roared in support of their local party representative.
Following them was the inner core of the party members, most of them unfamiliar to Harry. He hadn't really met much of the party aside from Daphne and her father. The few others he had met didn't seem to take to him much.
"Why aren't you up there?" Harry asked Daphne, giving her a sidelong glance. She had an almost wistful expression on her face that hardened at his question.
Keeping her eyes on her father, she replied with the barest hint of anger. "He thinks I might do something embarrassing or make him look bad. I'm only fit to be a follower." She seemed to want to go on further, but her mouth closed on its own accord, shutting with an audible click.
He didn't get a chance to prod her further as the man in question appeared on stage, eliciting a wild chant of his surname. The dark haired Undersecretary watched his supporters indulgently, smiling slightly at the cheering. For all of his energy and enthusiasm, he seemed battered and tired, older even. His skin held a deathly pallor, drawn taut over the bones of his face. If he wasn't standing upright and pacing the stage, Harry would have thought the man was inches from the grave.
"Welcome! I bid you all welcome to the next stop of our journey!" His magically enhanced voice echoed across the still growing crowds, reverberating between the shops of the crooked alley.
"The PPB has always prided itself in being a party of the people, a party that remembers it is composed of people like yourselves, and that it serves the interests of us all. Our members range from the noble shopkeepers of this magnificent alley –" a roar of pride met his praise, "– to the hardworking artisans of the proud north!"
He looked at the people, quietly reaffirming the goals of the party while ensnaring attention with hardly a thought. Harry saw that part of the Undersecretary that he remembered in Dumbledore, that ability to exude power and confidence through presence alone.
"And now, we are met with challenges from our opponents. Opponents who say our party is unrealistic, naïve… blind to the dangers of giving you freedom. But we have fathers in our party, mothers of children, brothers and sisters that each have defended their families with magic that would have gotten them locked away. Why is it that the PNRP has almost the support of the entire Law Enforcement community? They don't want to become irrelevant. They want us to weak. They want us powerless, forced to go along with their Ministry decrees and dependent on their protection."
"We have the power of self-defense. Shopkeepers should be able to defend their own stores without fear of prosecution. Why should we wait for Enforcers to do it for us? Why does the Ministry want us to slowly forget this magic we have been blessed with?"
"Of course, not all us have taken this lying down. We aren't not naive. We aren't afraid. To those that charge of us being idealistic, what of that boy who fought a war meant to consume us all? That young man who searched deep inside himself and defeated a Dark Lord with his own wand? He never forgot his magic, his heritage as a wizard. His independence and self-reliance ended the reign of darkness over Britain. He is an example to us all, and living proof of our ideals."
The crowd began talking amongst themselves in interest. Harry supposed that to people of the wizard world, he was a figure lost to history, a hero that had retreated from the public consciousness to the pages of textbooks and memoirs.
"Yes. The Boy-Who-Lived," he said it with a certain smile, "is one of ours. Harry, if you would so kindly come up here…"
Wizards and witches who hadn't heard of Harry Potter in almost a decade broke into a frenzy, wildly looking for the famed hero. He felt himself push through the masses of people, most of which realized his identity and greeted him with delight. Hands brushed across his robes and people shook his hands as he passed.
Along the way he saw awestruck Ministry workers who he recognized as seeing everyday, people who saw the boy-who-lived in the cafeteria but never considered his history or fame. Reporters from several newspapers quickly remembered their purpose and began moving alongside him, floating quills and scrolls floating above them. Not only was it a return of a public persona, but a chance to talk directly to a Ministry official long represented by DMPA liaisons and press secretaries.
"Mr. Potter, sir, what's motivating your return to public life?"
"…any comments on the ongoing investigation?"
"…any truth to rumors of an affair between yourself and the DMPA Secretary of Investigative Affairs Daphne Greengrass?"
At this he stopped and turned around, blood pounding in his ears, ready to confront the reporter and –
Dennis Creevey stood smugly among the masses of reporters trying to get a word out of him. He looked different than his older brother, harder and mature. He saw several faint scars on the side of his face, making his leering grin all the more unpleasant to look at.
"…please allow Mr. Potter to approach the stage, we will answer questions about his reemergence at a later date…"
Paul's voice made him scowl at his assistant's younger brother before he turned and made his way to the stairs on the side of the platform. He chanced a look at the crowd stretching almost a quarter of the way to the Leaky Cauldron, seeing it wild with exuberance. Paul extended his hand in what he supposed was going to be a frontpage moment.
He took Paul's hand and smiled, squeezing the deathly cold hand as cameras engulfed them in a supernova of light. Paul met his eyes, his features set in a perfect smile of confidence and poise. They stood frozen for several moments, waiting for the flashes to dissipate.
The handshake lasted a bit longer than he expected. Finally, Paul brought him closer, wrapping an arm around his back and bringing his hand out to the crowds. He suddenly felt oddly tired.
"Partymembers – I give you Harry Potter!" After waiting for the wild applause to end, he continued. "Harry is joining our ranks today, realizing that the PPB represents everything that he's fought for in his life. But enough from me. Let's hear from the man himself…"
He brought his wand, a longish, light colored instrument, up to Harry's neck, intending to cast the sonorous charm.
But before the wandtip touched his neck, Greengrass' wand went flying into the air, suspended several feet in the air. The crowd suffered the same, with hundreds of wands rocketing into the air and coming to rest far above the reach of their owners.
Paul looked up in unconcerned curiosity at his wand before suddenly looking at Harry, an amused smile on his face. "An anti-apparition and portkey ward is being cast. I believe they mean to interrupt us."
The sound of numerous apparitions around the crowd shocked the already fearful crowd hysteria. Brown, crimson, and dark blue robed wizards appeared at every corner and alley exit, the majority of them appearing around the platform itself.
There were Hit-Wizards, Aurors, and Enforcers among them. They gathered into small groups and entered the crowds, violently pushing people out of the way and checking the identity of every single witch and wizard present.
Neville Longbottom led one group to the stage, accompanied by three thuggish looking Enforcers, one of which was the one that tried to 'accidentally' curse Harry.
"Ladies and Gentleman, please remain calm. It is only my fellow candidate Neville Longbottom of the People's National Reform Party. I'm sure he has a few words for – "
Neville flicked his wand at Paul to dispel the charm, interrupting – "Actually, Greengrass, I'm here as Senior Detective Longbottom to make arrests for the engaging in the Dark Arts, illegal possession of polyjuice, impersonation, conspiracy to murder Ministry officials, and the premeditated murder of 12 of my colleagues."
Paul's sonorous charm seemed to have resisted the attempt by Neville to dispel it. He looked significantly better than before, his skin gaining some color and tone. It seemed as if the challenge had invigorated him. "With what evidence, Senior Detective? You can hardly arrest my party members with mere suspicion," he asked with mild surprise.
Neville smiled thinly back, directing several of his groups to disapparate with the arrested partymembers. "Article 2 of the Enforcement and Anti-Terror Act passed this morning gives the DMPA the ability to detain anyone in the Commonwealth for a period of two weeks without charges. Plenty of time to charge them with something, I think."
Neville gave a sideways look at Harry, who was watching more and more of the crowd be detained and taken away. He then faced the crowd of reporters furiously documenting the events and continued in a formal manner. "And you, Mr. Potter. I don't feel the need to detain you, but I may as well announce that you are under investigation for the mass murder of Ministry officials as Prime Suspect."
Tipping his brown fedora, he hopped off the stage and rejoined his group of Enforcers, directing away more and more of the crowd. Harry turned to stare at the retreating Neville, feeling burning hatred for the betrayal. He couldn't even protest with Paul and the reporters nearby.
Paul stepped up behind him, putting his hand on his shoulder. Harry could only hope the man hadn't realized who exactly was leaking the information to the PNRP. "Don't worry my boy, the man's got nothing. He can't put innocent people in prison. He's got no evidence or grounds for any of this."
Harry looked away. "Depends on whether he's going to play by the rules."
Harry found himself in his office, ready to finish his day and find something to fill his time. He had stopped even trying to play the avoidance game with Hannah. It was easier for them both, especially if any of the accusations leveled against him today had reached her ears.
He left the small room, strolling between the bodies and shutting off the lights as he left. In the corner of his eye he saw a lithe figure pressed against the wall. Tonks.
He didn't even bother approaching her. "Come to make sure I don't hide the evidence, Tonks?"
Tonks left the shadows and followed him out of the examination room. "More like to make sure you don't skip the country, Harry." She ran a bit to catch up to his hurried stride, almost bumping into the door when he didn't leave it open for her. "Listen, I don't like this any more than you, but it's my job. I'm an Auror of the Ministry and I've been assigned as security detail. You're not even supposed to know you're being followed."
"Thanks for the heads-up Tonks." Harry scowled, not even turning around. He walked to Colin's desk.
"Don't be like that Harry. Trust me, it could be worse. You're lucky I volunteered for this. Anyone else would have taken the opportunity to roughen you up a little," she said with a note of pleading in her voice.
"Anything for me before I go home?" Harry asked Colin, totally ignoring his minder.
Colin rifled through several stacks of parchment, procuring a small note. "Just this from Daphne."
Harry read it quickly:
Meet me in Hogsmeade behind Zonko's Joke Shoppe.
"What's it say?" Tonks asked, trying to get closer. Harry crumpled it and tossed it into the incendio wells they used for confidential paperwork. It disappeared into a flash of fire as soon as it entered.
"Nothing that concerns you." Harry walked up the several flights of stairs and hurried through the DMPA offices. Tonks hovered close behind, trying not to make it obvious she was following him. Harry needed to lose her. He didn't think Daphne would appreciate Tonks following him to Hogsmeade.
He began walking quicker, descending down the staircase to the first floor. Slipping through the masses of people leaving for the day, he ducked slightly and approached one of the lines for the fireplace. He couldn't see Tonks anywhere.
Cutting into line, he ignored the protests behind him and began planning several different floo runs to lose the Auror if she followed. Just as he was about enter the fireplace, an older woman grabbed him out of line and pulled him back towards the Ministry.
He tore away her hand and grabbed his wand, brushing it against the back of the man behind him, whispering a charm used during examinations. He grabbed hold of the wizard just as the man began to cough, bending over in pain and clutching his heart.
"Are you alright sir?" He asked, keeping his eyes on a confused Tonks. "Where does it hurt?"
The man wheezed, his face turning beet red as he gasped for air. "My heart… my heart!"
Harry looked around and announced loudly. "This man is dying, I need help!" He turned back to Tonks. Harry pulled the man up and shoved him toward her. "Auror, this man requires immediate medical attention. He's in no condition to floo – he needs to be apparated straight to St. Mungos!"
As soon as Tonks bent over to catch the falling man, Harry turned around and ran, taking advantage of the surprised crowd to disappear into the fireplace and disappear into the flames.
Harry stepped out of the green flames and into the Three Broomstricks, the fire flaring behind him as he brushed off the dust that had accumulated across the several floo trips.
Walking past the bar, he greeted an older looking Madam Rosmerta. What used to be a lovely, busty figure now was a lumpy, tired looking older woman with graying strands of hair in her brown locks. Her clientele hardly looked up at the entrance, somberly nursing their glasses. It was a far cry from his own memories, but he remembered that Hogsmeade only seemed bright and lively during weekend visits by Hogwarts student.
Harry left the bar and let the cold air wash over him, looking at the town around him. Much of it remained the same, with a few additions on the ends of the street. He tried hard to ignore the sight of a crumbling ruin far in the distance, glancing away from the hill he yearned more than anything to return to. But that was another life, another time.
He pulled his cloak around him and walked down the main commercial street of Hogsmeade. Zonko's had closed long ago in his sixth year, and last he heard Joseph Zonko himself had died on an attack against the small magical community in Edinburgh.
He approached the boarded up building, looking for any signs of Daphne. The shop was certainly an odd place to hold a meeting. The color had long faded from its bright orange and blue to dull grey. Harry could barely make out the words 'Zonko' etched onto the twin doors.
As he rounded the building, he saw a figure bound in ropes in the far end of the alley. He recognized the dark hair and pale skin, her features barely visible in the setting sun. Stepping into the shadows he pulled out his wand warily, knowing full well they weren't alone.
Two cloaked apparitions appeared out of the darkness, one of them holding a wand to Daphne's neck. The one closest to Harry pulled back his hood, revealing a mask not-unlike those of Death Eaters. They were cruder, more metallic and angular, as if they were a predecessor to their more refined likeness. Harry recognized them as the Knights of Walpurgis, a splinter group of terrorists mildly proficient in the Dark Arts. Their namesake, the original Knights of Walpurgis, was the early name of Tom Riddle's first followers.
The dark wizards watched him for several moments, standing perfectly still, judging him, gauging him. He tried to ignore Daphne's muffled cries, keeping his attention on the two specters before him. He might have been able fight off one with his bare hands, but a second one…
Harry suddenly heard a dull ringing noise that faded to reveal a sinuous whisper in his ears, one that seemed to repeat itself and increase in intensity. Whatever it was, it seemed to break the spell on the wizards, who snapped to attention and began approaching him. The voice gave one last command before it retreated.
"Do it. Attack!"
The farthest Knight brought his wand low, his palm up. Without any incantation at all, he ripped his wand up to the sky, as if cleaving the air in two. The ground in front of him split with a narrow fissure that raced to Harry. A few meters before it hit him, the magic burst out of the ground in the shape of a huge pillar of earth.
Harry threw himself out of the way, pressing himself against the side of Zonko's. The earthen spear caught the edge of his cloak and tore completely through it. Ducking out of the cloak, he barely managed to dodge a pale curse from the closest Knight before the second sent another pillar of earth. This one didn't seek to attack him, however. It joined the first and began blocking off the exit of the alleyway.
Taking advantage of the latter Knight's concentration, he rushed the closer wizard. The figure barely managed to send off a binding spell at his feet before Harry was on him. Ropes bound his ankles and he crashed to the dusty ground of the alley. Before the Knight could gather himself for another curse, Harry reached out for the man's feet and pulled them out beneath him.
The Knight hardly made a noise as he lost his balance and fell to Harry's side. The very last rays of the setting sun disappeared as the alley became totally closed off, plunging them into twilight. Reminded of the second Knight, he pulled himself under the fallen wizard and put him in a chokehold, shielding himself from further attacks.
The second wizard completed his work with a flick of his wand and approached them both, his mask betraying no emotion. Harry gripped the wizard's neck harder as he tried bringing up his wand, feeling the Knight's skin grow cold and clammy under his touch. The other Knight negligently waved his wand and sent them both scattering in opposite directions.
Harry tumbled roughly against the wall, looking up just in time to the bricks of opposing wall ripple and explode into a blocky, serpent-like creature. Harry rolled out of the way as the serpent crashed into the other wall, disappearing into it like water.
Harry jumped to his feet and tried tackling the second Knight like he had the first. Before he could even approach the wizard, the serpent burst out of the wall and crashed into his legs, the shards of brick that acted as teeth tearing into his calf. As soon as it struck, the monstrous being disappearing into the other wall. Sinking to the ground in pain, Harry found himself next to the fallen Knight. What skin showed under the heavy robes was white as chalk; the man was trembling slightly, breathing harshly against the mask. As he began to stir, Harry felt himself get hit with a concussion curse that sent him flying against the back wall. Daphne watched wide-eyed next to him.
The bricks rippled across the walls around him, and he felt, rather than heard the serpent explode out of the wall right above his head. Bricks flew everywhere as the serpent screamed an inhuman sound and disappeared into yet another wall, its tail seamlessly rejoining the masonry.
He shook off his disorientation and began rising to his feet when he was kicked back down. The second Knight stood grimly above him, an apparition of death itself. Harry crushed the stirrings of fear inside him as he saw a wand put mere inches from his face. The wandtip glowed a faint green as the Knight prepared to cast the Killing Curse.
Harry felt the world slow to a crawl around him. Time itself seemed to stretch as he felt his senses pick up on something he hadn't felt since he came to this cursed future – magic. The power long denied to him coursed through the wizard's arm into the wand. The wandtip flared brightly as the Knight spoke for the first time, uttering the incantation of death itself in a deep, baritone voice.
He could hardly see anything in the wash of green. On pure instinct he grabbed the man's hand with both his own, clutching it tight even as the Knight completed the incantation.
A roaring noise filled him, but the flaring, sickly green light seemed to remain where it was. It seemed to dim slightly as the Knight struggled to free himself from Harry's grasp. Slowly but surely the curse began to retreat back into the Knight's wand, its light fading and fading. Harry found himself growing stronger and more alive than ever before, feeling something rush into him that he had been missing for far too long.
The Knight grunted and faltered, and beneath Harry's hands he could feel his skin becoming icy cold. The Killing Curse shrank to a dull pinpoint of light as Harry slowly rose to his feet, still clutching the man's hand. The Knight seemed to have lost any sort of struggle, his body frozen in some sort of stupor. Only his head moved, his eyes following his victim's rise. Harry saw himself bathed in a faint glow in the Knight's reflective mask.
With brief jerk of his hands, Harry broke the wand in half and ripped it out of the wizard's hands, only a faint crackle of magic left. As soon as Harry broke contact with the Knight, the wizard lunged at him. The attack was weak, and Harry overpowered him easily, handily slamming the masked figure into the wall and driving his fist into his side.
Before them, the bricks rumbled and shook. Harry quickly pressed the dazed and disoriented Knight against the center of the rippling waves and stepped to the side.
The serpent impaled its creator and burst through his back. Before it could turn into another wall it crashed to the ground in a shower of broken bricks and dust, the magic sustaining its existence gone with the death of its creator.
Harry breathed heavily for a few moments, staring at the dead Knight before limping his way to the bound Daphne. As soon as he released her bonds she dove into his arms, sobbing almost silently into his chest. He stood there and held her tight as the images of the attack ran through his mind.
Putting his chin on her head, Harry brought up one of his hands and flexed it experimentally. He felt different… more complete. It was almost as if he had –
Instincts burned into him from years of dueling made him push Daphne out of the way and cast a shield charm. The other Knight was on his feet, bent over with his hand against the wall for support. He held his wand out weakly.
Harry hardly thought as he jabbed his wand at the Knight, a faint blur of the air the only warning for the wizard before his arms were completely shattered. The man gave a brief shriek of pain before he fell back toward the ground, groaning pitifully as he tried to crawl away.
Harry strode over, power filling his veins. This was what he had missed. He gazed fondly at his wand before he fell on his haunches and turned the Knight over. The mask hid his fear, but Harry could sense it anyways. He looked deep into the eyeholes and willed himself in, exploring, seeking answers. His abilities had been restored to him, and he was eager to exercise them.
Foreign sounds filled his senses, and he had a brief flash of his own face, speaking harshly to the Knight. In another memory, he heard the same sinuous voice that had filled his ears, directing, ordering him to do something… Before Harry could explore further, he found himself ejected out of the man's mind.
Harry looked at the Knight and saw the mask growing around his head, tightening and clamping around his jaw and squeezing. The wizard inside groaned and screamed pitifully as he was slowly crushed, the eyeholes gone and the small opening for his mouth sealing itself.
"No!" Harry snarled, and grabbed the man, pressing his fingers under the tightening mask. As soon as he made contact with the wizard's skin, the man stopped thrashing, freezing with a short-lived wail. Harry felt himself filled with the same roaring sensation as the magic in his veins flared, growing and filling him further. The mask continued to grow and tighten, completely encircling the wizard's head and crushing his jaw.
Harry's eyes closed as he basked in the sensation. He hardly heard the tortured muffled noises of the Knight, only realizing he had died when the pleasant, roaring feeling ended.
He looked up to see Daphne watching him in the darkness with a sickened, but strangely awed expression. Harry didn't think she realized what had exactly happened, and he wasn't sure he wanted her to know, either. Not until he knew further. He rose to his feet, keeping his eyes on the now almost comically small, bloodied mask. He rolled it over into the shadows to spare her the sight, mindful not to step into the pool of gathering blood.
"Why did they die like that?" He asked her, keeping his voice low and unthreatening. He couldn't bear the thought that she might fear him.
Daphne bit her lip, closing her eyes against the carnage before rambling away an explanation. "It's their way. The magic in their masks senses if their wearer is betraying their identities or the secrets of their organization. It doesn't matter if it's purposeful. If they try to take off their mask… even giving information to the authorities, letting their name slip, veritaserum, legilimency…"
Harry looked sharply into her violet eyes as she mentioned legilimency, watching her flinch at his hardened expression. He hadn't thought she recognized what he did. The magic was beyond obscure, and he didn't know of any other wizard alive capable of it. Dumbledore, Voldemort, and Snape had all taken the knowledge to their graves.
"Alright then. I think we should be leaving. I don't think it would be a good idea for the party if we were to be found with present company, dead or alive."
Daphne nodded quickly, apparently eager to change the subject. She fished into her robes for her wand and faced the earthgrown wall keeping them in.
The burst of reddish force made only a small indentation in the thick outgrowth. Frowning, she steeled herself and muttered a different curse, spewing dust into the air. The magic was slightly stronger, causing sharp spidery cracks to appear all along the surface.
"Here, let me," Harry said with a grin, echoing her offer earlier in the day.
With hardly a flick of his wand, a sharp wave of magic assaulted the wall and collapsed it entirely. They stepped out of the darkness of the alley and into the fading light of dusk. Harry pocketed his wand and grabbed Daphne's hand, helping her over the remains of the barricade.
She settled agreeably against his chest as they stood in the middle of the street, accepting his arms around her shoulders.
Hogwarts Castle sat on top of its hill, its lights reflecting majestically off the lake nearby.