A/N: Not quite a year!
Chapter 19 - The Only Thing to Fear
THE MAN WITH THE KILLING EYES,
AND THE REDEEMER, HAS RETURNED
HIS ARRIVAL MARKS THE START OF DARK'S RISE
THE HOUSE OF THE FOUNDERS WILL FALL TO DARK'S CHILD
THE POLES WILL CHANGE
AS LIGHT BECOMES DARK
AND DARK BECOMES LIGHT
HOPE RIDES ON THE REMNANT OF THE FOUNDERS HOUSE
HOPE DEPENDS ON THE FLOWERING OF FOUNDERS HEIRS
AND THE SOULS OF THE VANQUISHER AND THE VANQUISHED
IF TRIUMPHANT, THE CHILD OF DARK WILL COMPLETE DARKNESS'S WORK
28 July 1999
"Hey, Harry. Can I talk to you a minute?"
Harry looked up at the nervous question from a familiar voice. He had been reading through the proposed plans to implement for "Team Count", as dubbed by his younger team members. James and Sirius proclaimed their team "Team Marauder". Both generations of pranksters seemed determined to treat the upcoming plan as a giant prank war.
Harry allowed the team rivalry as a relief from nervous tension. Harry and Christina knew from long experience that new recruits often hid their nerves behind big talk or jokes. He had seen it with new Unspeakables and with Muggle solders during the war. But for now, he was willing to accept the talk. Besides, the creativity of their plans was top-notch.
"What can I do for you, Ron?" Harry asked.
Harry had noticed Ron had seemed to avoid him in the four days since Harry's return. A couple times he found Ron watching him with curious eyes.
Ron sat down in the chair across from Harry. He seemed anxious and could barely sit still.
"Is there a problem?"
Ron's face pinked a moment and then it came out in a rush. "How could you accept me after what I did before? I left you twice, twice! It was bad enough during that Tournament but I did it again before your final fight! I was a complete, jealous git! How do you know I won't do it again?"
The last was said loud enough that a couple of heads to pop into the office doorway. Harry noted the concerned looks on Jimmy, Ginny, and Hermione's faces as they glanced in.
After sending a silent privacy charm at the door, Harry sat back and looked at Ron. "You watched my Pensieve memories of the first timeline?" he asked unnecessarily.
Ron nodded with a miserable expression.
Harry suppressed a snicker. He knew Ron wouldn't understand his humour right now.
Finally, Harry said, "Yes, during the first task of that bloody Tournament my best mate turned into a judgemental, jealous prat. But he was fourteen. He got over it and stood by me the rest of the year. And he continued to stand by me, particularly my fifth year when I was not a ball of sunshine myself. At the end of that year he marched into the Ministry with me without any hesitation.
"Besides, you only saw the key points. I didn't drop the memories of hundreds, or thousands of days we spent in school where that Ron was my strongest supporter. I should have provided the memory of him receiving an owl from Percy saying to drop me and support the Ministry instead."
Ron looked a bit stunned at Harry's response. "But what about during the horcrux hunt?"
"Do you know what was in those damn things? A piece of Voldemort's soul. In no more than eight weeks, the diary was able to take complete control over Ginny. It forced her to open the Chamber of Secrets, kill the roosters and let the basilisk roam free. The ring took Dumbledore's arm and would have killed him if events hadn't caught up to him first. Aside from Voldemort, I was really the only one that could safely handle one of his horcrux; and that was only because of the scar he gave me when he killed my parents.
"Don't you think it a bit odd that the other Ron raided Gringotts with me and then just so happened to turn into a complete git while carrying Hufflepuff's cup? And that he got over it rather quickly after he left it behind?" Harry's voice had risen as he vehemently defended his dead friend's memory. The alternate Ron could only nod in a helpless fashion.
Harry caught himself and took a deep breath, leaning further back in the chair. After a moment, he said, "But you know what Ron? It doesn't matter."
Ron tilted his head to look at Harry in confusion.
"You are not that Ron. My friend I met on the Express is dead. You are not the person I shared so much with for seven years. The question of souls and alternate realities is too deep for me, so I'll stay out of it. But if I can accept Bellatrix, who's alternate killed my godfather and so many others, as my daughter-in-law; and I can accept Tom, who was the Dark Lord responsible for all of it, as my son, then how can you think that I would treat you any different for the fact your alternate 'betrayed' me once as a fourteen year-old and a second time under influence of a Dark object?"
Ron let out a loud breath. "I guess. It sounds logical when you say it like that, but I got so angry at him- er me,- er … you know what I mean."
Harry couldn't help his grin. "See, you are the same judgmental, conclusion-jumping Gryffindor prat I knew and loved. He would have been mopping around here the same way."
Ron gave Harry a sour glare ruined by his lips quivering in a suppressed grin. "What can I say? I'm a Weasley. We get our exercise by jumping to conclusions." Harry snickered in response to the old joke that was so true in its description of that family.
Ron gave Harry a curious, but cautious look. "Can I ask you a question?"
"I may not answer, but go ahead."
"How do you deal with it … all the deaths? I mean, you lost everyone before and with what happened now… How can you not just go crazy with it?"
The question filled Harry with mixed emotions. A part of him was angry that the question was just thrown out there. But it was mitigated with a sliver of humour that no matter what, Ron Weasley still had the emotional depth of a teaspoon.
After several quiet moments, Harry said softly, "I never handled it well when I was in school. Losing Cedric, then Sirius, I was a wreck. After Voldemort fell, I spent the next year pissed out of my mind from the pain of losing everyone else. My wife helped me to deal with it after I took in Tom. The Unspeakables made me go to some training dealing with combat stress and loss during the war. It helped, but mostly experience and maturity allows me to channel my anger rather than crapping over all of you.
Harry bent his head to look up at the ceiling with unseeing eyes. "All bets are off for Black Watch though," he added.
Ron nodded as though he understood what Harry meant. After a couple of uncomfortable minutes, Ron stood up to leave. He paused. "I just want you to know that I won't turn on you this time."
"I know," Harry assured the younger wizard. "Stay by your friends. You need each other." With a small nod, Ron left the office.
Harry remained staring up at the ceiling. 'Merlin, I hate those kinds of conversations,' he thought. 'Usually it was Hermione's job to deal with those.'
Movement on the ceiling gave Harry a welcome distraction from Ron's questions. The ceiling was currently showing the Great Hall. Although it was summer, a number of people were visible organizing and decorating the Great Hall. None of the figures seemed to be professors and their robes were much too colourful for Ministry drones of any type.
Then one figure arrived in the Hall that seemed to be giving directions to the others. This one Harry recognized. A small chuckle escaped from Harry as he made a connection between the figure and the eccentric dress of the other figures.
"Oh, this could be fun."
29 July 1999
The stately carriages arrived to carry their cargo from the Apparition point just outside the Hogwarts main gates up the path to the castle. None of the occupants seemed to notice the undead-looking horses that pulled the carriages; even when one took an interest in the long feathers coming out of one witch's hat. An unseen observer may wonder if the small crowd of witches with a scattering of wizards had never seen death or were hardened to the thestrals' appearance.
But the banner just inside the main gate answered the question.
Welcome to the 155th Annual Conference of Seers and Prognosticators!
The unseen observer snorted as he watched odd assortment climb aboard the carriages. Trelawny would be in her glory playing hostess to her 'colleagues of the Inner Eye'.
The carriages were approaching the top of a small hill that passed close to the edge of the Forbidden Forest. The watcher lightly tapped a small pendant saying, "You're on, Padfoot."
Out of the Forest's underbrush emerged a large, black Grim-looking dog. It walked with a deliberate pace as though stalking prey. The large dog stopped as it approached the path the carriages were following, its head tracking their movement.
A shrill scream rang out of the lead carriage. "It's a Grim!"
Chaos erupted in the carriages as the men and women inside reacted to the sure sign of impending death glaring at them The Grim's eyes seemed to glow; promising sudden, painful deaths to all it saw.
The panic inside the carriages reached a fevered pitch when one witch, braver then her fellow tea leaf readers, glanced out the window. "Its- its gone," Lavender Brown announced in a surprised voice.
Coming alert to the panic still surrounding her, Lavender repeated herself in a much louder tone, "The Grim is gone! We are safe now!"
The words seemed to sink into her five fellow passengers and to the carriages following as they too realized the magical sign of doom was gone.
"Of course we are safe, young witch," one old witch declared even as she righted herself. "Grims only signal death. They don't cause it!" There is no need to panic."
Lavender suppressed her desire to comment on the sudden stink of fear, sweat and urine that suddenly seemed to fill the carriage.
The carriages finally reached the entrance to Hogwarts where a beaming Professor Trelawny and a scowling Headmaster Snape stood waiting to greet them.
"You know," Harry heard over the magical wireless, "it would almost be more fun to do nothing and let Snivelous simply deal with these people."
Harry grinned at his father's comment.
"It really goes to prove the new Minister is a Dark Lord when Snape is named Headmaster," James added.
"Thomas, are you ready?" Harry asked bringing them back on topic.
"Yes. They are staying in the guest quarters off the third floor corridor. I'll be ready whenever you want."
"Thanks, Fluffy," Harry quipped. "Sounds rather ironic.
"Now we wait until they move outside after dinner for their stargazing. We'll give them some time to hit the sherry before we make our next move."
The sun was low over the lake as the Giant Squid could be seen at the far end playing. A beautiful red tinted sky bathed the ancient castle with a truly magical glow. The small garden was nicely decorated and several tables stood with all manner of house-elf provided goodies.
The assembled seers stood about telling each other in authoritative tones exactly what the passage of the Grim meant. The fact no two pronouncements really agreed was not a factor. They simply agreed with their esteemed colleagues before presenting their own interpretation.
Professor Sybil Trelawny was truly in her glory. After years of asking first Professor Dumbledore, then Professor Potter-Evans for permission to host the annual event, she had appealed to the greater offices of Minister Cresswell to get approval.
The Minister thought it would be a wonderful way of raising international awareness of the importance of British involvement in the great mystic Arts. The Minister even convinced Headmaster Snape to host the event here at Hogwarts.
And here was everything going wonderfully. It had started off a bit shaky with the appearance of the Grim. The membership had been quite shaken at first, but it had turned into a truly lovely discussion topic.
"Is that a unicorn?" Trelawny heard a witch ask. The Hogwarts professor moved with the crowd to get a better look at the unicorn approaching them.
"It is not a unicorn," Zefrus the Visionary, a great seer hailing from Coney Island, New York declared. "It is just a white horse."
"It is not simply a white horse," Ardalla of Paris rebuked with a scoff. "I can feel the mystic waves coming off the creature from here! Coupled with the Grim's earlier visitation there can be no doubt this is another sign. For it is a pale horse! Death! Death rides a pale horse!" The last bit was screamed at the top of her lungs.
This pronouncement caused a wave of fear to pass through the fortune tellers. Frantic, murmured conversations flashed through the crowd as they watched the horse come closer.
The fear though soon turned into full blown panic.
The panic was caused when a figure appeared on the back of the horse, a figure dressed in long black robes and holding a scythe in its right hand.
Feeling his grandfather's weight landing lightly onto his back, Thomas Potter broke into a light trot heading straight towards the crowd of fortune tellers. In what the watching seers could only be called a deliberate manner, the pale steed started to increase his speed. Soon he was in a full charge across Hogwart's lawn; his hooves thundering in the early evening silence.
The large, white stallion suppressed a whiny of humour as the assembled fortune tellers broke into a panicked retreat into the castle. Through his peripheral vision, the animagus known as Mortis could see 'Death's' scythe swing by his head.
The final straw came when a black shape appeared out of the shadows to run just ahead of the charging stallion. The few holdouts amongst the seers gave in when they saw the Grim running ahead of Death.
One of the more dramatic seers called out, "The Grim hunts us for its master!"
By the time Thomas had crossed three quarters of the distance, the last of the seers disappeared behind the thick doors of Hogwarts.
"Not even one spell in defence?" Thomas the horse heard Harry snort in disgust. "Okay, remember the plan. I'll see you at the meeting point." The sudden loss of the weight on his back told Thomas that Harry had returned to his bat form.
Ahead a thick mist started to rise up from the ground. As the horse entered the mist, Thomas quickly changed form with a stumble as the horse's speed carried over to momentum for the much smaller and lighter human form.
"Easy there. I've got you," a voice assured the young wizard out of nowhere.
" That is supposed to make me feel better?" Thomas quipped as a Cushioning Charm gently let him down to the ground. "You pranked me too much growing up, Uncle James."
"Who me?" James asked innocently. "Here take Harry's cloak and let's get out of here. Don't forget to charm your feet so you don't leave tracks."
"How could I forget? It was the first charm you ever taught me so I could prank Aunt Lily for you."
After the second sighting of a death omen in the eight hours since their arrival, the gathered seers, prophets and prognosticators were understandably spooked. It didn't help that Peeves managed to locate several boxes of WWW product. The American contingent all received Nosebleed Nogurts while the Europeans received Gender-Benders in their tea.
On the whole, everyone's nerves were already shot.
The Aurors arrived to investigate the claims along with a small unit of Black Watch. The Aurors investigated the scene and recorded memories. They found the hoof prints of a large horse or possible a horse-like magical creature such as a hippogriff. The prints seemed to disappear in midstride in the middle of an open field. That definitely pointed to some type of magic at work. With Portkey and Apparition ruled out by the Hogwart's wards, the investigators tried to discover how the horse creature disappeared without a trace.
Meanwhile, the nine wizard Black Watch unit broke up in standard three man teams to search the school and grounds for any sign of 'Dark' wizards. With the well-known Potter clan connection to the school the Minister had ordered them to check for their presence. Each of the three wizard teams consisted of at least one Hogwarts alumni as they searched all the classrooms, dorms, halls, and secret spaces of the sprawling castle.
Of course, Hogwarts wasn't willing to give up all of her secrets to the Ministry's wizards.
It was a rather shaken group of witches and wizards that were led from the Great Hall by three members of Black Watch. After completing their investigation, the Aurors and remaining Black Watch wizards returned to the Ministry. It was only at the very loud insistence of the conference attendees that the one squad remained.
The Black Watchmen felt like sheepdogs as they tried to move the seers along the halls. Watchman Malcolm Shipwright suppressed a sign as he watched his former Divination professor proclaiming that the forces of Darkness had retreated in the face of the Ministry. Stupid old bat. Well, at least he could watch Lavender Brown. The witch had been two years behind him in school and he couldn't help but notice the way she was filling her robes.
Shipwright opened the door to the third floor guest suit hallway as his fellow Watchman Avery MacBrooks led the way down the hall. His attention was on the coyly seductive smile on the former Gryffindor witch's mouth when all hell seemed to break loose.
Shipwright fought his way through the terrified mass of fortune tellers. Those they had not already fled back down the hall were huddled against the wall in shock and panic. And the young wizard couldn't blame them as he felt the shock shutting down his brain.
MacBrooks was suspended three feet above the ground. His arms were held in place by the left and right heads of a massive three-headed dog. The two heads were pulling and tugging on the screaming wizards arms in a bizarre tug-of-war. The middle head was trying to bite McBrooks' head but the actions of the other two heads perversely seemed to be saving him.
But it was the figure standing calmly next to the huge canine that truly shocked him.
It stood like a man of middling height in a course black robe that was tattered with burn marks. The figure's hood was up but not pulled low so that his face should have been clear in the well lit hall.
The key word was 'should'.
Where the man's head should have been was completely empty except for a pair of glowing orbs where the eyes should have been. No distortions to mark disillusionment-type spells could be seen. Just the empty hood and the glowing coals that seemed to simply hover in place.
The figure raised an empty sleeve and pointed towards where Professor Trelawney and Ardalla of Paris huddled together on the floor. In a voice that sounded like boulders scrapping together, the figure spoke.
"I bring a message to you, Seers of the Unseen Realms. You have invited the Darkness into your House, rejecting the Light. As the Light is forced into the dark, and Darkness walks in the light, it will be the people of Britain that will carry the cost as the wrongs are righted. Heed my warning, Speakers of Albion."
Shipwright managed to shake off the shock enough to pull his wand. "Hold in the name of the Black Watch!"
The figure seemed to turn its head in the Watchman's direction. "Beware, hunter. Lest you find you are the very thing yea claim to hunt!"
Before Shipwright could respond, he felt a darkness closing in as he started to lose consciousness. His last vision was of a pair of glowing red eyes coming closer.
"Beware, hunter. Lest you find you are the very thing yea claim to hunt?" James Potter Sr. asked in disbelief a few hours later. "That corny piece of shite is the best you could come up with?" he asked his eldest sort-of son.
"Hey," Harry protested with a grin. "I'll have you know that I got O's on all my homework when I was in the crazy bat's class. Trust me, she'll eat it up."
Lily gave Harry a disapproving frown. "Please tell me you took something more substantive then Divination."
"I was Muggle-raised," Harry defended himself. He pointed across the Chamber to where Jimmy and his friends were sitting. "Ron told me to take it. I didn't know any better," he said while throwing his first friend under the proverbial bus.
"Hey, that wasn't me!" Ron protested as Lily and Hermione turned to glare at the Weasley male.
"Corny or not," Tom interrupted, "it seems to have worked." Harry's son tossed a copy of The Daily Prophet onto the table. "The Prophet is eating it up."
James picked up the paper. Across the top the headline screamed out:
Dark Warnings Given to World Renowned Seers at Hogwarts!
The Ministry warns of increased measures to fight Darkness
Death Rides at Hogwarts!
"I don't know what is worse, the fact that the son of a Marauder used a line like that or the fact it seems to have worked," Prongs commented with a mock frown.
It was two days later that Harry saw what was one on the most bizarre sights he ever seen in any timeline.
Tom and Harry were sitting in Salazar's former office when in bound the massive form of a certain werewolf-Sasquatch hybrid. Michele seemed to find the large and rather terrifying form to be 'cute' in the way of many young girls. So it wasn't her bounding around that caused the two wizards to blink.
It was the blonde-haired, bug-eyed witch riding in a saddle strapped across Michele back that took them by surprise.
"Hello," Luna greeted them. "I was taking Loopy out for a ride and I wanted to check if the Licksprittles had gotten to you."
Harry had to grin. No matter the timeline, Luna was simply Luna. "Looney and Loopy out for a ride? Sounds like to start of a rather silly rhyme"
Luna stared down with her large eyes. "I think that would be wonderful, Harry. Do you think you could recite it for us all at dinner tonight?" Michele let out a barking-laugh of her wolf-sasquatch form.
Harry grinned and gave it up as a bad job. Getting a rise out of Luna was impossible. "What can we do for you ladies today?"
"I needed to talk with you and your son. It is about your tasks," Luna answered while tracking the trail of a dust mite with her eyes. The fact the speck of dust was falling but getting knocked about by air currents in the room made looking at her eyes mildly disturbing. Their movement seemed almost random.
"Our tasks?" Tom asked.
"We all have tasks," Luna confirmed, "but some tasks are more important than others. Professor Dumbledore had his task to defend against Mr. Grindelwald. You each have your tasks too."
Luna turned her gaze on Tom. "You were to be the successor to Dumbledore. But you fell and Voldemort took your place. The chain of champions was broken."
Now she turned and looked up at Harry with an unblinking stare. "Until a stubborn man that had seen all around him turn to ash committed a desperate act. He threw his soul into the past to correct things as he saw it. He chose to become a champion.
"Magic works in a balance. It is a natural things and Gaea likes a balance. To balance the intolerance of absolute good, there is the Dark. To balance the twisted chaos of absolute evil, there is the Light. When one of the Lights champions fell to the Dark, it ended a line of Champions. Like the line of Ramses, the line of Merlin was broken. A new line was started; the line of Potter"
Harry and Tom shifted uncomfortably. "We know all of this, Luna," Harry commented softly. "I went back in time to kill Voldemort, but I found my son instead." He was a bit confused about her talk of choosing and lines of champions though. The prophecy marked him. He never chose anything.
"But things didn't turn out the way the new champion intended," Luna continued as though Harry had never spoken. "He won but the victory was hollow. Again he threw himself into the past to correct what he saw as failures.
"He prevented the fall of the last of Merlin's line but at a cost. He assumed the fallen Champion's role. The roles of Champions are two- Defender and Redeemer. Albus Dumbledore was a Redeemer- tied to the Light to carry it into Darkness. Thomas Riddle was meant to be a Defender- to push back the Darkness."
Luna turned sad eyes back to Tom. "Defenders often push back that Darkness because they understand that Darkness in themselves. Tom Riddle knew that Darkness but slipped into its grasp. He was too young when a Dark One pulled him in.
"Then a new Defender stepped in." Luna turned again to Harry. "He defended the last Redeemer in his hour of need. And now it is his role to take up the fallen Defender's role to be Defender for the new Redeemer."
Tom looked down at the little blonde with a stream of tears running from each eyes. He felt a profound sense of failure at her words. Tom always knew the young witch was a bit off from her classmates but something inside told him her words were true.
"I was supposed to push off Grindelwald's influence and protect Albus as he fought the Demon Lord, Dad," Tom said in a hushed, pained voice. "I couldn't but you did. And it sounds like another version of you chose to do the same thing to stop Voldemort."
Harry could only nod weakly at Tom's comment. He was just as shaken as Tom. If he followed Luna's words, never a sure thing, it seemed he had travelled in time twice. He chose to do it. All those years of asking why he was the one marked by prophecy and Voldemort came down to a simple answer.
Because he chose it.
"Who is the new Redeemer?" Harry choked out.
Before Luna answered, Tom whispered. "Michele?" The question was asked in a combination of fear and shock.
Harry looked over at his great-granddaughter that had returned to her cute, normal human form. Brighid the phoenix had settled on the almost thirteen year old witch. The girl looked scared but Harry recognized the determination in her eyes.
"Luna, don't do this," Harry begged.
Luna looked ready to cry as she looked up at Harry. "I didn't do this, Harry. I just recognized it for what was supposed to be. The signs were there. In the end, a Defender cannot stand against a Demon Lord. Fate needed a Redeemer. She chose the only one who could fill the role."
Harry looked sick. "So it's my fault?" Luna's slap to the back of the Count's head took him by surprise. He couldn't remember the girl hitting anyone before.
"Don't be stupid. I said Fate chose her. If Fate's original plan had played out it would have been another, but that is not your fault. The Founder of each line of Champions places their own mark on who is chosen. The Champions are not usually linked by blood, they are usually linked by ... call it attitude. The line of Ramses tended to be great warrior kings or warlords- or at least had the noble bearing of a king; while the line of Merlin was more subtle and focused on knowledge."
"And what would my line be known for?" Harry asked with a wan attempt at humour.
Luna gave Harry an odd look and cocked her head to the side. Then she smiled. "I'd say sheer bloody-minded determination to do what you see is right, damn the consequences along with a truly good heart. At least if the wrackpurts don't get you."
"Yes, those wrackspurts are dangerous," Harry agreed.
"Michele, come here, honey," Tom called. When Michele approached him he gave her a huge hug and asked, "How do you feel about all this?"
"I don't know, Grandfather," Michele admitted as she shrugged in her grandfather's hug. "When Luna started to talk to me yesterday about this is sort of made sense. Professor Dumbledore had Fawkes and now I have Brighid. From your stories only Professor Dumbledore could create the 'Lightfire' to fight Grindelwald's Hellfire. Maybe I can learn to do that too."
'And the hits just keep on coming,' Harry thought as he looked at the pair in shock. Harry always felt that he fought to keep his loved one safe so that did not have to fight. Now he was going to have to protect his great-granddaughter so that she would be able to fight off a Demon Lord. The fate of the world on the shoulders of someone that should be starting the Third year at Hogwarts.
He wanted to punch Fate in the mouth.
Dinner that night in the former Chamber of Secrets was an odd affair. The two generations of pranksters were trading stories back and forth, laughing the whole time. The others listened in amusement as they tried to one-up the other side.
It was Christina who was the first to notice the lack of participation by Harry and Tom. Then she noticed Michele quietly eating her dinner where she would normally join right in. Christina's attention caught the awareness of Lily and Andrea. From there it spread to Katie, Tia and Bella. However, it was Fleur that forced the issue.
"Harry, is there something you need to talk about?"
Harry looked at the French woman sitting in the seat next to him with a blink. "I'm sorry, what?"
Fleur smirked slightly as she repeated, "I asked if there was something you needed to talk about?" She gestured with her hand towards Tom across the table. "The two of you have barely said a word since you sat down to dinner."
"We had a slight change in plans today," Harry announced.
"Why?" James asked just ahead of several others. We had good solid plans in place to start attacking Cresswell and his Dark Army."
Harry and Tom shared a glance. Neither liked it but they had agreed to hold Michele's future role as a secret for now. Luna's part would also be concealed. It was not a lack of trust, but simple, brutal practicality. They wanted to keep Michele's role secret for as long as possible from Cresswell. If someone from the family were caught and forced to talk, Michele would become their highest priority target.
Tom started, "Cresswell is starting to get too much support from the international community. His view is the only one out there. Even when we defeat him, we would still have the rest of the world thinking we are Dark."
"Tom is going to be our international face," Harry continued. "His job will be to get the truth out to the governments and their people about what is really going on here. I would like James and Sirius to go with Tom and Andrea as a protective detail.
"I know Tom is one of the most powerful wizards alive today, but even he needs to sleep," Harry stated as James and Sirius started to object. "And if they rush him with numbers he would be grateful for the help."
There was silence for a moment while the change was digested. Finally, Tia said, "I understand the logic, Dad, but what brought about this change?"
Harry grimaced. He glanced at Christina and said, "We received word today that Cresswell, like his father, is a Demon Lord."
The people around the table looked confused as Christina paled. "A full Demon Lord?" When Harry nodded confirmation, the former Dark Witch said, "Fighting him head on would be a recipe for disaster."
"Why?" Lily asked. "There isn't another prophecy is there?"
"Aside from the one we already know?" Tom asked rhetorically. "No, but being a Demon Lord means that aside from being able to summon demons, he has access to Hellfire. We think that is why Albus was murdered. He was the only known wizard able to conjure the Lightfire that is Hellfire's counter."
"That makes some sense," James allowed. "But if we can't fight him directly, what are we going to do?"
"Two fronts," Tom answered. "The first is to remove his international support. The Americans already know most of it. While they are not popular in the international community, they do have significant clout."
"Meanwhile, those of us here will start whittling down Cresswell's supporters," Harry added.
"And what about my Demon Lord nephew?" Christina asked.
"I am working on that," Harry assured her.
The conversation dragged on for another two hours with not much else being resolved. No one was happy about the change in plans but they accepted Harry and Tom's words that the change was necessary.
Harry was sitting on the couch in his office looking up at the roof. Salazar's charmed ceiling was displaying the summer Scottish sky. The moon was near to being full and it illuminated the few puffy clouds. The scene was beautiful and serene; peaceful. In Harry's hand was a large glass of Fire Whiskey.
None of it was doing any good. Harry still felt the pain of what he was going to have to do.
Harry was shocked when he felt a pair of hands slide over his shoulders and starts to rub.
"It is not your fault." Harry recognized the soft French accented voice.
"I always wondered how Albus could just sit back and expect a teenager to fight a Dark Lord and win. Now I am expected to train a pre-teen member of my family to do exactly the same thing." Harry chuckled hollowly. "After being on both sides, I think I prefer being the teenager. At least then you can act out and go all angsty."
Fleur hummed an agreement as she continued to rub Harry's shoulders. "Yes, I've seen the memories of your Fifth year. I am sure many of your professors were drinking each night too."
Harry had to chuckle at that. The image of McGonagall tossing back a shot of Fire Whiskey every night. After several nights drinking with Filius while teaching in the as James Evans, he knew the diminutive Charms Master could more then hold his own in a drinking contest.
"That is better," Fleur commented.
Harry had to smile. "I have to thank you, Fleur. You got pulled into this and it has nothing to do with you. I appreciate it."
"I could no more have turned my back on Michele then you could have turned your back on that little boy being beaten in an alley."
"Tom has been telling stories."
"A few," Fleur agreed. The witch let up on her backrub and moved around the couch to face Harry. She sat down next to Harry close enough that their thighs touched.
Harry was surprised at how close the half-Veela was sitting to him. While they had playfully flirted during the trip across the United States, it had never turned into more than that. Now, Harry noticed the short, silk robe Fleur was wearing. She had worn the robe to dinner too but now feeling the warmth of her bare leg through his, his awareness of the French Healer's attractiveness resurfaced.
"It is not your fault," Fleur was saying unaware of Harry's sudden change of mental direction."You are not responsible for everything that happens in the world, Harry Potter."
"I know," Harry agreed softly.
Fleur turned and caught Harry's eye. She suddenly leaned in to kiss him softly on the mouth. Harry started to pull away in surprise but her shockingly strong hands came up to hold his head in place. Surprise gave way to acceptance.
After kissing for a couple minutes, Fleur pulled her head back a bit.
"She would understand."
"How do you know?"
An arched eyebrow and a small grin answered him. "She left her daughters with very explicit instructions."
Fleur chose a very effective method of ending the conversation.
Luna walked away from the office door with a smug smile on her lips. It was about time something went right.
The alley was filled with people on the warm Friday afternoon. The London wizarding population was enjoying the sunny summer day with only a few puffy clouds in the sky. With Hogwarts out, students seemed to be everywhere in their little groups. The mood seemed positive. It like there was an unspoken agreement not to allow the problems since the death of Professor Dumbledore to ruin the beautiful day.
Of course there were signs of the times visible in the Alley. Several squads of Black Watch were patrolling looking for any hint of Dark activity. One squad was permanently stationed at the head of Knockturn Alley. They were forcing anyone entering or leaving the alley to shop evidence of their business and submit to a scan for Dark materials. Business in that alley was rather slow.
Another squad was stationed outside the home office of WWW. Soon after Harry left for the States, the Black Watch had started to ask a lot of questions about the use of the twins' products in some of the Count's attacks. Coupled with the Weasley family's historical ties to the Potters, this made the twins objects of interest to the Black Watch. The shop and their apartments above remained under continuous surveillance. Knowing this the twins kept to their shop with only open travel to their parents house and a few suppliers. All of the travel was via Floo or by foot. This seeming openness and lack of activity lulled the Watchmen assigned into a level of complacency by the time Harry returned. However, the watchers remained.
Overall, the Alley seemed tranquil; a picture perfect day with all good in the world.
A skilled observer would note the number of glass spheres mounted atop the light poles lining the alley. Every six poles would be a new sphere except where a twist of the alley created a blind spot, and then the pattern was broken. The spheres were part of a monitoring system to allow the Ministry to observe all activity remotely.
'Would have been nice against Voldemort,' just such an observer thought from his vantage point of a roof overhang a few metres taller than the light poles. The poles had been installed after the invasion of the gremlins. Harry bet they could create artificial sunlight to activate the creations self-destruct mechanism.
The sun was low enough to create an artificial dusk. The buildings of London cast long shadows as the magical lights came on. Harry waited a little while and the crowd below started to change and grow. Now the workers were leaving their positions and the alley was filled with people out for dinner or doing some quick shopping before Flooing home.
Harry the bat made a very high frequency squeal that woke his sleeping neighbours. Started out of their slumber, over thirty-thousand bats dropped from their perches to swarm around the Daily Prophet building. Just their sudden appearance was enough to spook the crowds below.
The bats had been collected from caves all along the coast of England and magically transported to this location. Before a compulsion charm caused them to settle in the attic of the wizarding newspaper for the day, an extra charm was added. It had been developed years prior by Tia as a revenge for a prank by her brother Ron. It allowed an object or a creature to take on some of the fear causing aura of a boggart. The more cursed items around you, the greater the effect.
Well, now Diagon Alley had thirty-thousand cursed objects flying around it.
Now the tranquil scene was long gone as witches and wizards ran trying to find a place of safety. They were in no real danger but they didn't know that. Only a few of the Aurors and Watchmen on duty with strong wills or Occlumency training were able to resist. They were struggling valiantly to keep order.
Harry dropped to the ground and transformed unnoticed. He moved unnoticed into the central square that hosted many of the Ministry's public announcements and celebrations. Harry cast a couple of quick spells before blending back into the crowd. The panicked mob overwhelmed the Ministry's monitors. Confusion is a wonderful thing.
The next day, Diagon Alley had returned to normal. The bats had all returned to their normal haunts so the Ministry via the Prophet pushed for people to 'not allow the terrorists to run their lives'. Many responded to enjoy another beautiful day on the Alley.
It was twenty-four hours after the bats appeared that Harry's spells took effect. It was subtle. Some people saw a message stating, "Cresswell is the son of Grindelwald." Others saw, "Don't serve the Demon Lord." Or the third message, "When have the Potters ever been Dark?"
It was enough to start some whispers; to start people wondering about what they had been told.
A/N: Sorry for the long hiatus this story has taken. At first I had major writers block and then lost interest in finishing as I got frustrated. The reviews all helped to push me back into it.
I never really stopped writing. I have been playing with some other plots including a HP / Assassin's Creed and a HP / Highlander crossovers. Between the two I have over 100K words written. It is a huge difference to write the whole story rather than one chapter at a time. I will not post either story on FFN until it is complete. (I do have drafts up on my Yahoo site but make no promises that the earlier chapters won't be changed without notice.)
Hope you enjoy this chapter and I promise not to take another year to post chapter 20. (Ten … eleven months tops.)