It took time for Harry to return to the Black Order and when he did, it was too late.
First he spent time healing. Then he found his time taken up by the wizarding world and rebuilding it. His fame was at an all-time high and he used it to his advantage. Always, the Innocence stayed on his person as if he might one day go to the Order to return it on a whim. He put it off, afraid that the moment he did, their connection would be over.
Until the day he received word that Allen was gone, Kanda might as well be dead, and that Lavi and Bookman were missing in action.
He dropped everything. He apologized profusely to Andromeda – he was supposed to visit Teddy that day – contacted Hermione in case anyone came looking for him, and decided to bite the bullet. Innocence in his bag, he took the Deathly Hallows home.
The portkey left him dizzy and disoriented. He'd appeared in a forest clearing, the ground marked by a large cross. It mirrored the one in his hand – a permanent portkey – and he tucked it back under his shirt. He didn't wear his uniform. He hadn't worn it since he'd taken it off after the battle, but he kept it hung up like a piece of memorabilia.
He walked the rest of the way to the Black Order, knowing he was under surveillance. The portkey point had eyes on it at every moment. He knew, from second hand account, that its convenience was really starting to catch on. Portkeys were becoming invaluable to Finders – with a way to travel that didn't rely on the questionable Ark, the Order had never been able to react so quickly.
He passed through a ward that tingled over his entire body. Another magical addition, which took him by surprise. When the entrance came into view, Malfoy was waiting for him. It was a relief to see someone familiar.
"It's ironic that you're one of the few who bother to come through the front door anymore," Malfoy said, tapping a clipboard against his leg. He wore a rosary around his neck, a matching silver cross to Harry's own.
He also wore all black. Mourning clothes.
"What happened?" Harry demanded.
"It's better if you talk to Komui," Malfoy said, shaking his head.
"You can't send me a message like that and then not tell me," Harry snapped. "Where are they? What happened? What – What –"
"Potter, I can't just go into gossip mode. That's not how the Order works." Malfoy glared and tapped Harry on the chest with the corner of his clipboard. "I told you because I knew you were close, but I'll have you know I got in trouble for it."
"For telling me?" Harry frowned, crossing his arms.
Malfoy sighed, glancing around. "You haven't been around, you git. If you took much longer to bring that Innocence back, they probably would have gone to take it themselves. You do have it, right?"
Harry flushed. "Yes. I – I didn't mean to take so long. Time just… went really fast."
"Uh-huh." Malfoy rolled his eyes, clearly unconvinced. "Well, things are… they're changing, Potter. I don't know how much longer you can straddle the line like this."
"I understand," Harry said, ashamed it had taken such horrible news to realize it. He started to walk beside Malfoy through the familiar marble halls and, though he knew it hadn't been meant that way, said, "I've noticed the change. Wards, huh? You put that up yourself?"
"Are you insane? By myself, over this huge place? No. I've gotten a few… volunteers."
He knew for a fact that Malfoy didn't exactly work so altruistically. After he had joined the Black Order, he had seen the gap where magic could be and taken the reins hard. He'd used what was left of the Malfoy name and fortune to secure his place as a valuable member – supporting the Order as their main connection to the wizarding world.
Suddenly the Order had access to potions, to magical materials, to wards and portkeys and funding it always sorely needed.
"How's your expansion plan going?" Harry said, also knowing all those things came through shady connections. The Black Order had refused to come out of the shadows and done some damage control after the battle at Hogwarts. Malfoy's support remained just as hidden.
"Poorly." Malfoy scowled. "Central is stuck in the eighteenth century. They're a bunch of old men who think witch craft is still something to be afraid of, even though they see the good I've been doing."
"What about your one plan?"
"Coming along." He smirked. "He's one of the most annoying men I've ever known, but he's been cooperating. At this rate, I might even be able to introduce him to a few circles so that he can help me expand right under Central's nose."
By which he was referring to Bak Chan. He'd outlined the idea to Harry once – capitalize on Bak's curiosity about magic in order to slip more magical influence into the Order before Central noticed. He hoped to make magic vital; there was so much they could improve.
"But that's not why you're here, of course," Malfoy said. "Komui should be in his office, skiving off paperwork as normal."
Harry expected to walk into the office and see just that, but Komui was bent over a small stack of papers when they entered, glasses pushed up as he rubbed his eyes.
When he looked up and saw them, he stood sharply, glasses falling askew. "Harry!"
He seemed distinctly anxious. Harry nodded to Malfoy and the blond left, closing the door behind him. "Komui. It's good to see you again."
"Yes, of course," Komui said, relaxing slightly. "I'm happy to see you but at the same time, concerned. Have you finally brought the Innocence?"
Harry patted his bag where the Hallows lay. "It's all here. I was hoping you could tell me what happened first."
Komui sighed, shoulders slumping. He sat back down and waved to the chairs in front of his desk. Harry took one, hands fisted in his pant legs.
Komui told him the story. He gave all the little details, citing that everyone knew them now. He explained the Second Exorcist project. Kanda's part in it. The Third Exorcists. The Noah's attack and Alma Karma.
Allen's signs of awakening and fleeing of the Order. Link's death.
"But you don't know if he's dead?" Harry said of Kanda, chest tight. "No one saw that."
"There has been no word one way or another," Komui said, steepling his fingers in front of his face. "I honestly don't expect to receive any. I hope I don't."
If he did, he would be forced to try and take Kanda back into the Order, willing or not. Harry understood and ached for him. "Lavi and Bookman?"
"Missing from the battle in China," Komui said. "Just gone. No word from them either. They're Bookmen – it's possible that's taken them elsewhere. I don't believe they're dead."
That was a relief to hear, but it worried Harry. Would they have abandoned the Order? It was during a battle against a Noah… could the Noah have taken them? But he didn't know what for. What could the Noah even want with a Bookman?
He leaned back in his chair with a heavy sigh. And Allen, out there somewhere, alone. Suffering. Struggling.
He never should have taken so long to return. Maybe he could have made a difference.
"There's been more akuma activity than ever," Komui said, rubbing his forehead tiredly. "The Exorcists are constantly being sent out, with no time to rest. The Ark and the portkeys have been a huge asset, but there's just not enough…"
Not enough Exorcists. And now, they were down by four.
Komui was looking at him like he had when he'd walked in; anxious. Nervous.
"We will have to visit Hevlaska," Komui said. He looked so tired, so resigned, but Harry thought he understood. The supervisor was afraid Harry would turn out to be an accommodator. That he would have to force Harry into taking the title of Exorcist for real.
"Alright," Harry said, also resigned. "Let's go."
Watching Hevlaska take the Innocence out of each piece and put them back together was awe-inspiring. He felt it when they joined, a deep thrum in his body. It sang, joyous, and Hevlaska told them she had never felt anything like it before.
Then she held the Innocence, a strange gear contraption with a cube in the center, out to Harry. He reached out, trying to feel it.
It recognized him. He could feel the presence inside it just like he used to, but it was different. Older. More aware. It looked at him, looked through him, and found him wanting.
It sent a jolt up his arm that stung and left him aching for hours. A warning, he felt, for the sake of the half-partnership they'd had. But it was no longer confused and was no longer instinctively searching for help.
He was just simply not its wielder.
"It got what it wanted from me," Harry said. "I guess that's it."
Komui let out a breath. He looked neither relieved nor upset. "I'm a little surprised, to be honest. I'd thought acceptance from two out of three would be enough."
"I think I could have used them all," Harry said. "But I think that's also because it was looking for someone to put it back together. 'Master of Death' was just a lure."
"I see…" Komui looked out into the darkness around them. This was the safest place for them to speak. "Then, I'm sorry to say that this must be the end."
"What?" Harry blinked. The words settled in his gut, echoed in his ears. "But… but I could still be helpful, even if I'm not an Exorcist. Malfoy-"
"Has officially joined the Order with no small amount of disgruntlement," Komui interrupted. "He's been undeniably helpful, but there are things in place. Protections. You have not joined the Order and, frankly, I believe it's best if you do not."
That hurt. Harry leaned on the floating platforms railing. "You don't want me here?"
"That's not what I said." Komui's eyes seemed to soften. He put a hand on Harry's shoulder. "There are things here you don't understand. The Third Exorcists have me concerned. I joined the Order in part to stop things like that from happening, but it was kept from me. On top of which, there has been strange moment in Central. If you join us, Harry, I am not sure I'll be able to protect you, and you're the first instance of someone who was once compatible but survived losing it. They might take that into account. They might want to explore it."
He hesitated for just a moment before adding, "They might want that regardless."
Harry looked away. "You really don't trust your bosses, do you?"
"You did not see my sister before I joined," Komui said. "I don't want that to happen to anyone else. I don't want you to be a name on a list of casualties, a means to an end. You deserve better."
Dumbledore had said something similar. All it managed to do was firm Harry's determination.
"I understand," he said. "Thank you. You're the best thing the Exorcists could have ever hoped for."
"I am sorry," Komui said, hand dropping back to his side. "I'll let you say goodbye to those you can. After that, I have to ask that you don't return."
Harry nodded. He looked up with a small smile.
"I am not a part of the Black Order," he said. "I get it."
So he said goodbye.
Komui wasn't kidding when he said the Exorcists were on a constant rotation, but he still managed to catch a few of them. Lenalee was in the infirmary being patched up. She stood to hug him the moment their eyes met.
"How are you doing?" he asked before she could speak.
She drooped. Opened her mouth. Closed it and shrugged. Everything about her looked guilty.
"It's alright," he said. "I believe they're all fine. You'll see them again."
"I'm a little afraid of that," she whispered. "I shoulder have tried harder to stop him. I always said – but then when it came down to it – I couldn't do anything."
"You knew Allen longer than I did," Harry said. "But even I know that you wouldn't have been able to stop him. He did what he thought was best. What he thought he needed to do."
Lenalee shook her head, hair flying. "How can I say we're friends when I can't even look for him?"
"Komui told me the Order banned it," he said. "Or else you're to treat him as an enemy. And that's fine; you have friends here, too, Lenalee. And I know everyone is rooting for Allen."
She nodded but he didn't think she felt much better. He wished he could say the right thing.
She smiled, then, a little shyly. She took his arm in hers. "Tell me how you've been. Better?"
He told her a little – about what he'd been doing to help rebuild. About Ron and Hermione's wedding coming up.
"They'd be happy to see you there," he said.
"I'd love to go," she said wistfully. "I've never been to a wedding."
"They're loads boring." He leaned in close to whisper as though imparting a secret. He was proud to say he got a small giggle from her. "But you should still come. We can be bored together."
"Sounds fun," she said. Her mouth smiled but her eyes did not.
They both knew she wouldn't be going.
He talked with her a little while longer, until a Finder came to lead her to her next mission. Harry didn't want to part like this; her downtrodden and him pretending everything was great.
He hugged her again. Into her hair, he mumbled, "It's not over, Lenalee. There's still one direction to go."
"Forward," she whispered into his shoulder.
He said goodbye to Miranda, who cried, and Timothy, who complained that he hadn't brought Ginny with him. He thought about leaving notes for the rest, but the ones he really wanted to see were gone on more than just a mission.
He made sure to visit the Matron and the scientists. Everyone seemed to know it was the final goodbye; there must have been talk in the months before his return. There were a lot of tears. Some of them might have come from himself. He'd only spent a small amount of time there, but he felt like he was leaving Hogwarts. There was something about fighting next to one another that brought people close. He mourned for people of the Order he never even met.
He saw Malfoy again but wasn't concerned – they, at least, were not forbidden from contact – and then said a final goodbye to Komui. It was more formal than he would have liked. He made sure to at least shake hands.
But as he was walking through the front doors, someone called out to him. He turned to find the Johnny, who threw his arms around Harry's neck.
"Don't forget us, okay?" he said.
Harry felt paper against his hand as it was taken. He smiled. "I could never forget, Johnny."
Less than a week later, Harry waited in a train station. He was dressed inconspicuously, wand holster attached to his forearm. He read a newspaper – a Muggle one, and it seemed so long since he'd seen the non-moving photos – and glanced around the crowds.
There. In between two intimidating men was a head of sandy brown.
Harry set aside his newspaper and followed. Navigating the crowds without drawing attention was difficult when one had to move quickly. He followed them onto the train; a quick charm ensured no one would question whether he had a ticket.
All the while, he kept one eye on Johnny, waiting for his cue. They had already planned this meet up and he already expected that his guards were more than just for show. If need be, he'd interrupt with force and then they'd been on their way after Allen.
After all, he wasn't part of the Black Order.
They couldn't tell him not to go.
A/N: I originally finished this March of 2010. I included here a lot of thanks, blown away by the support it unexpectedly received. I surpassed all my goals from word count and reviews to completion. And this was my very first completed fanfiction which I put a lot of effort into, so I always remembered it fondly.
I decided to rewrite this with very specific new goals in mind. I did more than I planned, but I left the overarching plot points the same. There were probably several chapters I could have deleted entirely without losing much, but I wanted to keep it mostly the same. Where I could.
I hope that anyone who has come back to reread this finds the new version as good as the last (Actually, I hope they find it much better like I do, but I'll settle for equivalent if I really have to). Thank you again to everyone who has and will review – even years later before I rewrote this, I read and tried to respond to them. Getting words of feedback, good or not, is incredibly helpful to writers.
I hope you enjoyed reading!