Disclaimer: Harry Potter and his world are the intellectual property of the wonderful Mrs. J.K. Rowling, and she has my eternal thanks, both for all the joy she has provided me and the permission she's given her fans to play with her toys.
Dedication: For Sherry. Always for Sherry.
Harry Potter and the Black Hearted Auror
Chapter One: Three Letters
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Mr. Harry Potter,
As you are no doubt aware, at least in part due to your actions this Spring as well as the escalating war situation, Cornelius Fudge has resigned his place as Minister of Magic. Having been appointed in his place, I have come to this esteemed office with two very simple, and non-negotiable goals. The first of these is that I will not allow the Ministry to continue in its errors, the greatest of which, undoubtedly, has been its complete inability to admit error, and worse, to continue making even worse errors out of sheer pride and stupidity. My second goal is even simpler, and more important than the first.
To, once and for all, destroy He-who-must- Voldemort.
It seems that you are heavily concerned in the accomplishment of both of these goals, Mr. Potter. The Ministry has wronged you, persecuted you and those you loved, and ignored your warnings. More, being that I have access to more information than The Prophet(though less, I have no doubt, than Albus Dumbledore), it is fairly obvious to me that He- Voldemort, will not be defeated without you.
My predecessor was a fool and a man who only wanted power for power's sake. I assure you, Mr. Potter, I am neither of these things. The Ministry does not owe you a great debt, if my calculations are correct, the Ministry owes you at least five, and I will not let these continue to go unpaid! I will not, in this time of crisis, have the young hero on who's shoulders rest the hopes of so many, alienated from the Ministry, unable to believe in the government that should be assisting him in any way it can, rather than hindering him at every step! And I will not allow this war to be lost because of ignorance, mistrust, and fear, because those were ever the tools of the- Voldemort.
I request a meeting with you, Mr. Potter, and leave the time and venue to you to decide.
Minister of Magic
Harry Potter read the letter for what was perhaps the fifteenth time, gnawing uncertainly at his lip. What was he to make of this? His knee-jerk reaction was not to trust the Ministry, even if it did have a new leader who seemed so different than the one who'd spent the last four years alternately courting and persecuting him. However, in the wake of the Department of Mysteries, he'd made a promise, not to himself, not to his friends, and not to Dumbledore. He'd made a promise to Sirius.
He would think. He would reason. He would try to live up to the man he needed to be, rather than the child who'd gotten his Godfather killed through prejudice and rashness. So he read the letter again, and as had happened with every reading since the first, three things jumped out at him.
The Minister was coming to him almost as an equal, as a man, rather than patronizing him or treating him like a child, which was something every authority figure he'd dealt with since his eleventh birthday had done, to one degree or another. Though the majority of the fault was still his, it was that very sort of thing on Dumbledore's part that had gotten Sirius killed, and nearly gotten Harry and all the friends he'd had left at that point done as well. And despite the Headmaster's teary apology at the end, by the tone of the letter from the wizard that Harry had received only an hour before this one, Dumbledore was still thinking of him as a child, maybe a useful child, maybe even an adolescent who needed a little more length on the apron strings... But not a young man. Not someone who'd faced Tom Riddle again and again, and was destined to do so until one of them was finally dead.
The Minister admitted mistakes had been made. More, the Minister admitted what mistakes had been made, and was asking Harry to let him make it up, to prove that things could be different. Harry didn't immediately believe in the man, he knew people better than that, knew the Ministry better than that, certainly. But it wasn't fair to simply assume Scrimgeour was going to pay lip-service and then continue to be a worthless arse. In fact, not only wasn't it fair, it wasn't intelligent either. He knew what it was like to have assumptions made about him, and he wasn't going to be as foolish as the sort of people who read the Prophet and believed more than one word in twenty.
Both of these facts were making him seriously consider the Minister's offer of a meeting. However, it was the third fact, the most important, the one that had struck him first, that finally decided the young man who had once been the Boy Who Lived, and was now, apparently, the Chosen One. It didn't escape him that it was an intentional effort, and had probably been meant to influence him in this exact way, but that didn't change the central fact of it.
Scrimgeour had written the name. It had obviously been hard for him, and the first time the quill had torn through the parchment on the 't', but nevertheless, it was right there. Harry wondered whether it was easier for people to write it than it was for them to say it out loud. At first glance it seemed obvious that it would be, but on reconsideration, writing a word took longer, and more effort, than just spitting out three ugly syllables.
A soft hoot brought him out of his reverie as his eyes continued to scan the heavy, neat handwriting in front of him. Hedwig was eying the other owl in his room, but not with the usual thinly concealed dislike she showed most other avians. The gold-banded black owl that was certainly no Ministry owl, and must, therefore, be Scrimgeour's own, hooted twice in return, and after a moment, hopped over to sip from Hedwig's water dish. His snowy-white familiar clicked her beak once, then gave it a light ruffle through the other owl's neck feathers before hooting again in approval.
That was finally what settled Harry Potter. While his instincts were no longer necessarily to be trusted, Hedwig's were beyond reproof.
Well, that was settled, but now that he'd decided to respond... What was he going to write? Harry found a quill, a pot of ink that hadn't completely dried out, and a roll of parchment with enough space left for what needed saying, whatever that might be. The instincts he no longer trusted were caught between a long ranting list of grievances and insults, or a simple response of yes, he'd be happy to meet with the Minister and discuss whatever he liked. The first was too aggressive, the second not nearly enough.
How would Sirius handle it? That brought a flash of pain and he pinched the bridge of his nose sharply, stopping tears before they could even get a good start. Now wasn't the time to be getting soggy, if he needed, he'd have himself another good cry after the letter was written. Forget Sirius for now, but who did he know that was good at dealing with Ministers?
Two names came to mind, the first of which was Lucius Malfoy. Well, it hadn't worked out too well for him, had it? But how had the miserable bastard managed so much influence? Money - he quickly concluded. Lucius had his old-blood charm and prestige, but what had given him power and influence were the old-blood galleons. Harry quickly dismissed that notion, he had enough in his vault to cover the next few years and give him time to figure things out, but not enough to buy a government employee. And if Scrimgeour were for sale, he wouldn't be worth buying.
That left one other person Harry could think of who'd shown any real ability in manipulating the Minister around to getting what he wanted. The tactics hadn't always been successful, and they'd been publicly at eachother's throats as often as not, but it was the only other design he had to work off of. Albus Dumbledore. So how did he do it then?
With power, with the respect and loyalty the public had given him. By using a mix of carefully worded threats and giving in where not too much was lost by doing so in light of what could be gained. As he thought back over the four years he'd been watching Fudge and the Headmaster maneuver around one another, Harry blinked in surprise, then ran his fingers through the spiky fringe of his hair in thought. Dumbledore was better at it than he thought most anybody had given the old man credit for, and in the end, it just seemed to boil down to a handful of ideas. Don't push too hard even when you've got the upper hand. Keep your stance on the important things and retreat on the less important when necessary. Never lose your temper or allow your feelings to make your decisions.
That last part was going to be the hard one. He blew out a sigh and let his head fall forward onto his knee. If he did meet with Scrimgeour, the sly old bastard was probably going to be purposely trying to put him off balance. Dumbledore would, and so would Fudge. And right now that would be easier than usual, not that it was probably ever that difficult. Merlin knew Draco Malfoy had never had much trouble in that area.
He looked down at the still somewhat shiny letters on the back of his hand. In the beginning, they'd been a reminder of all that was wrong with the Ministry, but at this moment, they meant something more. He hadn't been able to keep his mouth shut when it came to Umbridge, anymore than he'd been able to do when it came to Malfoy, or Snape for that matter. I must not tell lies? He thought, No. I must not lose my temper.
Yes, that was going to have to be his mantra for the near future. I must not let my emotions, anger, fear, hate, control me. I must be better than that, I must think of all those affected by my actions first, and choose what course is best for them. Like Dumbledore did. I must maintain control. I must be strong and brave, like a Gryffindor, not quick-tempered and out of control... He snorted a laugh, completing the thought aloud. "Like a Gryffindor?"
Harry closed his eyes, breathing, trying to empty his mind like Snape had taught him, well, not so much taught as screamed at him to do - no, that wasn't helpful. He tried to empty his mind, he focused on his breathing, he let his heart beat. Then he really felt what was in him, instead of just trying to ignore it and allow it to color every thought and action.
He almost screamed. The pain was still there, in fact, contrary to what people kept telling him, it seemed to have grown sharper with the passage of time. And anger too, anger at himself, at Snape, at Dumbledore, at Malfoy, at Fudge and all his cronies left in the Ministry. Hate, for Voldemort and his Death Eaters, though, surprisingly, not truly for either Snape or Draco Malfoy, though unquestionably for Dolores Umbridge.
Fear, oh yes, there was plenty of that to go around. Fear of Voldemort, fear of losing the last few people he had left, fear of failing to really do what he had promised Sirius, fear of failing to do what he was destined to. There was more fear in him than he would have ever thought possible. He gasped shakily, and let it out as a sob. "So much... So much for brave and noble Gryffindors." He rubbed the back of his arm against his eyes, the tears had managed to come now, but this still wasn't the time.
Alright, now he knew the emotions, what to do with them? He wanted to push them down, shut them away, strangle them off... None of that was right, that wasn't acting like Dumbledore, or like a hero, or like a man, even. That was acting like Voldemort, and he was not going down that road. Dumbledore had told him this was what made him human, his pain, his loss, his love. So fine then, let him be human.
He sat there for over an hour, rocking slowly in his spot, completely unaware of the two owls staring at him, one with curiosity, the other seeming sympathy. Finally, those famously green eyes snapped open, still shiny with tears, and Harry dipped his quill into the ink. The emotions were all still there, but he had recognized them, explored them, learned their bounds and their reasons, or at least, made a start at it. They still had power to affect him, but at least he'd know which was affecting him, and how, and why. It seemed like a start at least.
Harry began to write.
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Rufus Scrimgeour, Minister of Magic, sat at his heavy Spartan desk, staring with unfocused eyes at an inbox that was already overflowing with missives from every Department under him, while a steady stream of folded parchment aeroplanes winged their way in and landed, making the stack ever taller. On most days, this was quite the reverse of normal, Scrimgeour was a master of paperwork, a bureaucratic wonder if ever there was one. This wasn't to say he wasn't a hell of an auror as well, but he'd risen to the top by two major merits, power games and paperwork. Nobody really respected you in the modern Ministry if you couldn't fill out a form, and unlike the bumbler Fudge, Scrimgeour never let his name go on anything he hadn't fully read.
Today was different though, on the desk in front of him was a report detailing several suggested updates to Azkaban's new protections, and while his eyes drifted to it from time to time, he could only manage to read two or three words at once before his golden gaze unfocused again. The reason for this, of course, was one Harry Potter. More than anything else in the hash Fudge had left him, the enmity between Harry Potter and the Ministry of Magic was a crisis, especially if half of what most people were starting to believe about the relationship between Potter and the- Voldemort, he corrected himself- the relationship between Potter and Voldemort, were true.
Worse, if Potter was really strong enough to slay... him, that meant Potter was strong, stronger than anyone suspected. In that case, it was probably not the wisest idea the Ministry could come up with to antagonize and generally make him miserable. History had shown over and over again what happened when you drove powerful young wizards insane, Tom Riddle, yes, that was much easier to think than... the other... Tom Riddle was, of course, the perfect example. Misery and persecution lead to Dark Lords, simple as that. And if they were going to get this one sorted, Rufus Scrimgeour didn't much fancy training up the replacement monster before the current one was even slain.
Was it too late though? Potter was taking his bloody sweet time about it, wasn't he? Was he going to answer at all? If he wasn't, then where was Rufus' own owl, Lazarus? He growled, low and deep in his chest, for a moment making his leonine appearance even more impressive than usual. If Potter hurt his owl, they were going to have words, oh yes.
He was just thinking of how such a situation could best be handled when the flapping of powerful wings drawing rapidly closer broke his reverie. He looked up, immediately schooling any hope or expectation off his face, knowing it was quite likely this was just an owl from the head of some department or another, or a concerned citizen wanting to make him fully aware of their feelings, their suggestions, and their long list of complaints. It wasn't. It was Lazarus.
The great black and gold owl landed on Rufus' outstretched arm, and with the worldly grace and decorum that had never failed to bring a smile to his master's face, extended his left leg. The Minister's fingers trembled slightly as he removed the parchment from his familiar's proferred limb, not forgetting to give the faithful bird a pat and a word of encouragement. That done, he turned the rolled parchment over in his hands, staring at it as if it held all the hopes of the Wizarding World within.
Which, most likely, it did.
That'll be enough of that. With a snort, he banished the melodramatic thoughts, and with a deep breath, and a touch of rusty Occlumency, opened the letter with his wand and began to read.
Minister Rufus Scrimgeour,
First, I would like to say that I appreciate the courage that must have been involved in writing that letter. To approach me that way, not in public or full of bluster, and to acknowledge the wrongs the Ministry has done me and those I love took both bravery and honor. Also, while your use of Voldemort's name is obviously a bit of a play to get in my good graces, it's still earned you points, not for bravery so much perhaps as for showing that some compromise and progress may be possible between us by letting go of the knee-jerk fear most wizards have of even thinking the name of He-Who-Must-Be-Hyphenated.
You want to repair the relationship between the Boy Who Lived and the Ministry? I understand the need, and, I hope, your motive. However, do you understand what's going to be necessary to accomplish that particular goal of yours? We're talking about more than just an apology here, Minister. To put it quite simply, I want reparations and an agreement between us that will allow us to fully unite, not just have the facade of it. You may have some idea what's coming, but I have better.
I'd prefer to face the future with the Ministry behind me if it's possible, but if it isn't, don't think for a moment I'll hesitate to break off from you again if you start walking down Fudge's trail. I've been hated and persecuted before, in fact, I've grown quite practiced at it. And every time it happens, I wind up with more people who stick by me, and are willing to do things like follow me into the Department of Mysteries to face Voldemort himself. The night I invaded the Ministry to protect you lot from your own ignorance I had ten brave men and women fighting beside me, including three of the best aurors of our age.
Next time expect me to have a hundred.
Please do not, for a minute, think I'm trying to threaten you, sir. I'm trying to be honest with you, and make you really see something that no one else ever seems to, not Fudge, not Dumbledore, not even Voldemort. I may be fifteen sir, but I'm not just any boy barely starting to grow stubble, and treating me like one, or expecting me to act like one, isn't going to end well for anyone. In the past, it's gotten people killed, both of the Dark and the Light.
Now you're probably getting a bit irritated with me. You're seeing the braggart Harry Potter, the spoilt child who thinks he can do whatever he wants and get everything handed to him for the asking. If that's true, I'd suggest you take a bit of a break from reading the Prophet, the Quibbler is a much better publication, in my experience. I'm not the Harry Potter you've read about either, that Boy is a fiction. I am who, and what I am.
I am important to the war effort. I am starting to grow powerful in my own right. I have people I'm going to protect and ideals I'm going to fight for. But that doesn't mean I'm going to just give you a laundry list. No, I want a meeting, call it a summit, even. We'll meet, I'll tell you what I need, you'll tell me what you need, and hopefully, we can find some ground somewhere in the middle. Just remember this:
You told me you had two goals, fixing the ministry and killing Voldemort. I have two goals as well. Killing Voldemort, and making sure as many people as possible survive this War. If you can keep that in mind, I think you'll find me rather easier to deal with than you might expect.
As you were the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement at the time, I am sure you are aware of the area where the most recent Quidditch World Cup was held. If you wish to meet with me, send me a portkey to the central of the fields where the campground was, keyed to activate this coming Thursday at 3 o'clock PM. Your life is not your own to gamble with, so I'll understand bringing a pair of aurors for your protection. Any more than two, any reporters, anyone at all that I don't recognize or that I don't like, and that will be the end of it before it's begun.
I look forward to meeting with you, and I hope that we can come to some understanding that benefits not only both of us, but everyone who stands to suffer at Voldemort's hands.
By the second paragraph Rufus' fingers had begun to crumple the edges of the parchment, and the lines on his face had deepened into a grimace of anger. And even though what came later held some attempt at reconciliation, his teeth were still clenched tightly as he slammed the document down on the desk in front of him.
The nerve of the boy!
Rufus blinked, then started. The boy? No. He reread the second paragraph, and then everything that came after it again. No, not a boy, not that. A young man who was at least partially aware of what he had in terms of bargaining chips, and who had his own agenda. Not the "spoilt child" people always seemed to begin dismissing him as when they started disagreeing with what he said or how he said it. One blunt, gnarled finger traced the line about how both Voldemort and Dumbledore kept forgetting this, and the Minister of Magic swore to himself, then and there, that he was going to remember it.
This was no boy, this was Harry Potter, the Chosen One. And if he was treated with respect, it was very likely he would respond in kind. So that was the tack to take, then. Rufus calmly folded up the parchment, tucked it into his robes, and quickly dashed off another letter. He gnawed on his lip thoughtfully for a moment, then grinned, and removed the heavy silver ring from his right hand and tapped it with his wand, muttering a word. He rolled up the parchment, slid the roll through the ring, and held it out to Lazarus. "Take this to Harry Potter boy, and be sure you don't lose the ring. My father would rise up out of his grave if I lost track of it."
Lazarus' feathers puffed up and he hooted indignantly, offended by the mere suggestion he'd lose anything so important, and took off with a powerful sweep of his wings. Scrimgeour watched him go, and was motionless for a time after. It probably wasn't going to work, of course. In all likelihood Potter was going to want free rein, maybe even to try to tell him what to do as Minister, and he wouldn't stand for that. But he'd go into this with an open mind, and try to deal with the b- young man on as equal a footing as he could. No lesser effort could be allowed.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Mr. Harry Potter,
As per your request, I have set this portkey to activate Thursday, the 11th of July, at five minutes to three in the afternoon, and take you to the location you specified. Please do not lose the ring, it is a valuable heirloom of my family. I will be waiting for you at the site of our meeting with two aurors. I think, perhaps, I shall take even further advice from you, and choose "two of the best aurors of our age" as you so deftly put it.
May our meeting bring peace and advancement.
Minister of Magic
Harry stared at the ring, still not entirely believing all this was happening. He rolled the thick silver band over in his hand, examining it thoughtfully. In the center was a round cut amber, and on each side of the band was engraved an animal, a lion and a snake. It seemed Scrimgeour came from an interesting family background. Harry used a bit of twine to hang the ring around his neck, it wouldn't do to have the Dursleys see him with anything precious after all, and then picked up quill and parchment once more.
He'd decided on this even before he'd sent the first letter, but it seemed prudent to wait until the Minister had decided whether or not to tell him to sod off and grow up before he did anything. Another letter was written, this one coming much more quickly and easily. He rolled it up and tapped it with his wand to seal it, then secured the missive to Hedwig's leg.
"This one's for an old friend, girl. Bring it to Remus Lupin, and don't leave him alone until he responds. Don't let him send me just a letter either, peck at him until he gives you a package too." Harry grinned, stroked Hedwig's neck, and then watched her fly away. This was going to be a disaster, most likely. And there was, of course, the chance that it was a trap of some kind, whether there was Death Eater involvement or not... But things needed to change, and this was the best chance he was ever going to have of accomplishing that change by himself, in his own way.
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Author's Notes: So, this is the first chapter of my planned epic fic. If this goes according to the rough outlay I've got, it's going to wind up being an AU of the last two books. In the beginning you'll see events more or less following the timeline of HBP, but as Harry's actions and circumstances will be different, and the Ministry will be running a different course, you'll find it branches away from canon farther and farther as it goes. In the end I'm planning three books and possibly a short fourth. Your encouragement will help me make it that far, if you wish.
And yes, Harry's a bit OOC, but I'm trying to make it believable. In the canon he explains to Dumbledore that he laid around the house for a while sulking and decided he just had to move forward. I've decided that, for my fic, he thought a little bit more deeply than that and decided to actually try to stop making the same mistakes again and again.
A few other warnings as well:
1.There will be OCs as I go along, and while you need not fear any of them being a Mary Sue, they will play important roles in the story alongside the canon characters. If you object to OCs on principle, I regretfully suggest you find another fic.
2. There will be Honks. I plan to make it believable, rather than "Oh Harry I've always loved you!" in the second chapter, but if you object to this particular pairing on principle, I once again regretfully suggest finding another fic.
3. I don't have the entire thing plotted out yet, but there will be character death, and I'm going to try my best to make you cry with it. If you don't like this, see above.
4. You may be starting to work out that I'm creating an Independent! and Powerful!Harry. This isn't to say he's going to try to take the Ministry by storm, nor is it to say he'll discover he's a half-vampire, half-veela, earth mage who can do the ancient magic and invent spells off the top of his head, it's also not going to happen in the span of a few chapters, but it will be a gradual, believable process. If you like this kind of Harry, you've come to the right place, if not... Well, you know.
5. I'm from the Robert Jordan school of writing, which means most chapters won't be terribly long, but there will be a lot of them. The downside of this is that you'll be clicking the next chapter button more often. The upside is that new chapters will come out more quickly.
6. I've rated this story M for a few reasons. There will be violence. There will be adult language and content. There will most likely even be a tasteful love scene or two. However, if you're looking for smut, you're in the wrong place. Heck, you're on the wrong website!
7. This is a story containing Honks, but not just a Honks story. If that's all you're looking for... well... There aren't really many, so, good luck finding a decent one.
I hope you like it. Comments and creative criticism are welcomed, compliments even more so. Also, I'm looking for a couple good beta readers, so if you think you're up to the challenge, please do email me, it's right there in my account.
Oh, and don't worry, most of my author's notes won't be anywhere near this long.