Update-9 July 2014: A big thanks goes out to Hidden50 for compiling a very long list of typos found throughout the story. I have taken his list and made corrections.
A/N: Well, this is the end. Thank you so much to all of you who read and offered support during the past four years. Also, a special thank you to those who served as co-authors and advisors. I have a number a business matters to take care of before launching the chapter. I realize some of you think some of this stuff is silly, but I really do get contacted about it, so I thought I'd just take care of it upfront:
Sequel: I have adamantly declared for four years that I intended to write no sequel. Well, I did not know it then, but I guess I am a dirty liar. A couple of weeks ago, I took few minutes from working on the plot of the Harry/Helena story to wonder what a DE sequel would look like. The result? Para Bellum. A story I am already in love with. Add me to your author alert list so that you will receive notification when the first chapter of Para Bellum arrives. In it, you will find three separate dimensions, Harry/Bellatrix, Harry/Ginny, cross-dimensional political intrigue, and some pretty legitimate battles, among other things.
Reposting DE: I hereby grant license for people to repost this story elsewhere. I only ask that you notify me so that I can read reviews.
Translating DE: As with Earl, I am willing to allow anybody to translate DE into another language, though I think you would be crazy to embark on such a task. It is your duty to figure out whether somebody is already translating into that language. I only ask that you notify me so that I can read reviews.
DE in One, Big File: I will download the story and compile it into one big file, sans A/Ns for your enjoyment. It will eventually be available on DE's Y! Group. But not tonight. I've already spent enough of my Saturday on this.
Altering DE: I got a lot of extremely rude reviews when I sent H/B to the future. You have my permission to take everything up to that chapter and try to write your own version of how I should have written it. We'll see who gets more positive reviews . . .
Story Image/Avatar: I'm not so good at visual art. If anybody wants to propose an image for this story or even Para Bellum, I am willing to post it. The Yahoo! Group has a place to upload suggestions. I'll warn you, though, I am a little finicky, so I do reserve the right to just stick to no image.
Once again, thank you for all of your support.
Chapter 45: Harry & Bellatrix Make Good
A Death Eater burst into the room in which Lord Voldemort had secluded himself. He rushed forward and knelt, not making eye contact. "My lord! Lord Black has seized control of the Ministry. He has discovered our location and has mustered an army and is sending it against you, here. We have at best minutes before the force arrives."
Voldemort struggled to control an overwhelming wave of surprise, anger, and even fear. To show any other emotion other than calm would be weakness. "Erect extra wards around the hill and reinforce the defenses at the cave entrance. We will then retreat using apparition or emergency portkeys."
"Some of your followers have already tried escaping, milord," the Death Eater admitted. "All forms of transportation are blocked. Minister Black must have sent an advance force."
Voldemort stared into the Death Eater's eyes and used magic to read his thoughts. The Death Eater's thoughts revealed that he had been among those who had made an escape attempt—without notifying his Master of the impending danger. Saying nothing more to the Death Eater, Voldemort summoned his wand to his hand and hurled a Killing Curse. It struck the Death Eater, killing him instantly.
"Faithless servants," Voldemort whispered as he strode from the room to his innermost sanctuary in the caves. His familiar, a large snake, was resting on his bed. "Come Nagini," Voldemort hissed, "we must hide. If Lord Black wants to find us, he will have to come and get us."
The sunlight of early morning poured down on a green field in front of the entrance to Voldemort's cave. Aurors, Ministry workers, and other volunteers with battle training gathered—some spreading out into defensive positions while others clumped together in big groups. Even members of the Wizengamot had come. Harry took a position on a grassy knoll, surrounded by his principal deputies and advisors.
"The wards my people have placed are holding," Edward Foxe informed Harry. "The Death Eaters also have wards. I am fairly confident that the Dark Lord is within."
"Do your wards block escape routes, such as a path through to another cave?" Harry asked.
"Yes," Foxe said. "The wards penetrate deep into the ground."
"Good," Harry said as he surveyed his attack force and assessed its relative strength.
"Is that hole in the ground the entrance?" Director Longbottom asked.
"No," Foxe said. "That's a decoy. The real entrance is about ten feet up and beyond. It's behind some camouflage spells. It's a doorway. About six feet tall. It can only fit one abreast."
Alastor Moody shook his head. "Defenders could hold that indefinitely. And, there could be all sorts of spells that get triggered by one of us walking through the door."
"Is there a place we can break into the cave without going through that doorway?" Harry asked.
"Our sensors say that there is a tunnel beyond the doorway. It would take a lot of spellpower to carve a new tunnel and fend off a defending force," Foxe informed Harry. "You might consider using that amount of magic to completely destroy and collapse the caves."
"That would be a lot of dead people," Amelia Bones cut in. "And, you might never know for sure whether you got You-Know-Who."
"Quite," Harry said slowly, suddenly distracted by Bellatrix's arrival on the knoll via apparition. Instead of coming over to the group, she held herself back while Harry conversed with the group. "Frank, have your Aurors cast a barrage of spells against Voldemort's wards. Mostly, I want there to be a lot of noise and ground shaking. I don't necessarily want anything to penetrate and harm the Death Eaters inside, but I wouldn't be sad if some of the wards fell. Keep that up until I call a cease fire. The rest of you, stay here while I talk to Bella for a moment."
Frank nodded and spoke to some of his aides who then carried his orders to the Auror force stationed on the field. Harry walked away from the group and approached Bellatrix. She handed him a cloth bag.
Harry accepted the bag and looked inside. "You've anticipated my needs," Harry said, reaching in and withdrawing a number of potion vials.
"I fear that a duel between you and the Dark Lord is unavoidable," Bellatrix said. "He will not surrender himself. If he has his way, every inch you gain will be with blood."
Harry nodded as he took all the potion vials from the bag, sorted them, and placed them in various pockets in his battle robes. He then withdrew a single Rubik's cube from the bag and slipped it into one of his pockets.
"Only one?" Bellatrix asked.
"I've decided that it will be me and nobody else," Harry said. "I would prefer numbers on my side, but I don't think I will be able to get that many fighters close to Voldemort. I'll have to sneak up on him."
"If that is what you feel is best," Bellatrix said, taking the bag with the remaining Rubik's cubes back and holding it. "What do you want me to do, now?"
"Find Dumbledore. Take him to Voldemort's final destination to help ensure safety and security. Also take anyone else he nominates to assist. Perhaps you can use the cubes to take you there in an untraceable manner." Harry said.
"I will be expecting an Order of Merlin, First Class, for all of this, you know," Bellatrix said, her lips quirking into a teasing smile.
"Let's not pat ourselves on the back yet," Harry said, turning to go back to where the others were standing.
"Wait," Bellatrix said.
Harry turned back, and she stepped forward and embraced him, hugging him tightly. "Do not be a dimwit," she said before kissing him.
Using the spell Bellatrix had challenged him to learn, Harry projected his image into the cave and appeared as an extremely colorless and dim version of the Ghost of Ashworth. The passageway he initially found himself in was empty and lit by only one magical torch. Cautiously, he made his way to another passageway, and then another as explosions shook the caverns. In one large cavern, he found the bulk of the Death Eaters, quietly cowering.
Harry moved on and found other groups of Death Eaters. Eventually, from eavesdropping on the hushed whispers of some of the smaller groups, Harry learned that Voldemort had seemingly abandoned his followers and taken refuge deep in the earth.
Realizing that Voldemort might find some way to escape if left alone for too long, Harry quickly surveyed the essential layout of the cave system before cancelling the spell and returning to his body. He opened his eyes and found Frank Longbottom and Edward Foxe looking at him expectantly.
"Cease fire," Harry said.
Frank passed the order on, and the explosions stopped.
"I am going to go in alone," Harry said, raising his hand to forestall the objection already on Frank's lips. "I'll drive the Death Eaters out. They would have already surrendered, but they are afraid that the Dark Lord is watching and will kill them if they do."
"Do you think that is what will happen?" Frank asked.
"I don't know. But as I drive them out, I will certainly watch to see if the Dark Lord tries to do something," Harry said. "And, forcing them to pass through the entrance will help you see what wards there might be. Take them prisoner as they exit. Then, once you have ascertained from the prisoners that all the Death Eaters that want to surrender are out, advance into the caves using whatever amount of force you think is appropriate. Systematically secure each cavern or room and slowly progress inward. I will be stalking the Dark Lord."
Harry used phoenix fire to transport himself into the cave undetected. Holding both of his phoenix-feather wands, Harry cast a stealth charm on himself and made his way to the largest gathering of Death Eaters. After some careful calculations, Harry discovered that if he stood near the edge of the cavern and cast his image projection charm to the opposite end of the room, he would be able to see from his image well enough to cast with his physical body.
He took his position at the edge of the cavern, cast a number of protective spells around himself, and then cast the image projection charm. On the far end of the cavern the Ghost of Ashworth appeared. It was a ghostly version of Harry, slightly taller than Harry's actual height.
Within seconds, a young Death Eater was shouting the alarm.
"Shut up!" snapped a witch who seemed to be one of the senior Death Eaters in the group. Angrily and fearfully she stared at Harry's ghostly form, her eyes darting nervously back and forth to check her peripheral vision. It seemed she understood that she was looking at an illusion. "What do you want, Minister Black?" she snarled.
"Your immediate surrender," Harry said. "Leave the caves and surrender to the Aurors."
"You haven't won yet," another Death Eater called out.
Mostly for the theatrical effect and partly to give himself enough time to think of what he would say next, Harry stared at the Death Eater who had spoken without saying anything. Harry had hoped that the Death Eaters would see reason and surrender when invited. However, it seemed that such a conversation would take too long. He could not afford to give Voldemort much more time. After a long moment had passed, Harry used the magic of the image projection spell to make his eyes glow.
Harry then cast a spell to amplify his voice. His words echoed through the caverns, reverberating loudly. "Death Eaters: This is Harry Ashworth Black speaking. As of this morning, I am the Minister of Magic. Your status as Death Eaters makes you enemies of the magical government of Britain. I am ordering you to proceed immediately to the entrance of the cave and surrender your wands and yourselves to the Aurors."
"And what if we don't?" yelled that same Death Eater.
Harry directed a ghostly glare at the Death Eater, but deigned to answer the question anyway. "If you fail to surrender immediately, you will probably be killed." Finished speaking, Harry cancelled the sound spell and watched the Death Eaters in the main cavern expectantly.
Some of the Death Eaters were fidgeting and moving more than they had been before. However, the crowd mentality seemed to be holding them back. Harry decided to take advantage of the crowd mentality. With a regretful sigh, he cancelled the image projection spell. Ensuring that his stealth spells were still in effect, Harry took aim at the end of the cavern and summoned Fiendfyre. It sprouted from the floor where the Ghost had stood and blazed into a rotating column before transforming into a giant basilisk.
The Death Eaters began to run.
Lord Voldemort had secured himself in a secret chamber near the large chamber in which the bulk of his Death Eaters were cowering. As soon as he realized that Lord Black would likely waste a lot of time trying to convince the Death Eaters to surrender and then even more time dealing with any Death Eaters that did surrender, Voldemort decided to flee deeper into the caves and attempt to break through the wards that the Ministry had cast deep into the ground to prevent his escape. It was easier to physically pass anti-transportation wards because they were mostly targeted toward transportation spells. And, if the Death Eaters were going to leave the cavern, the Ministry might have to alter the wards.
"Stay, Nagini," Voldemort hissed as he left the chamber. She would be his insurance policy. If Lord Black was to be victorious, he would have to find and kill both him and Nagini.
Voldemort exited the chamber and sealed it carefully to disguise its existence. He then rushed deep into the caverns as Lord Black's voice reverberated throughout, demanding that the Death Eaters surrender.
Dispassionately, Harry guided the Fiendfyre basilisk with subtle wand movements as the Death Eaters screamed and ran. He made a point of looking at as many of them directly as possible so that he could later use a Pensieve to remember their faces. No doubt there would be lengthy trials with these Death Eaters claiming all sorts of things to get themselves off the hook.
Harry flicked his wand a couple of times and a phoenix and a griffin sprouted from the fiery basilisk. At his direction, the three fiery creatures began rushing down the passageways of the caves. Keeping control of the Fiendfyre was exhausting, but it was working. The Death Eaters in the caves were all rushing toward the entrance. Harry plodded onward, keeping his focus on his spells.
"It appears that the Minister has made a convincing argument," Edward Foxe said to Amelia Bones as they watched Death Eaters spawn from the entrance of the cave and surrender in droves.
"That's good and great," Amelia sighed, "but what happens when he comes face to face with You-Know-Who? Minister Black II's reign could be shorter than his father-in-law's. Where does that leave us?"
"Not in a bad position," Foxe said. "You would have every Death Eater in custody and the memory of a martyr capable of inspiring all sorts of things. You could probably put a price on You-Know-Who's head and have him dead within a year. That would be victory for the good guys."
"No, it would not be I," Amelia sighed. "It would be Bellatrix Black. Having lost both father and husband to assassination, she would be elevated to the Minister's office on a wave of public sympathy. She would even have the money to personally put a price on Voldemort's head."
"She would not be a bad Minister," Edward Foxe observed.
Amelia wanted to argue otherwise, but was interrupted by an Unspeakable who had rushed up to them.
"Mr. Foxe!" the Unspeakable exclaimed. "Somebody is trying to break through the wards."
"Reinforce them immediately!" Foxe commanded. "Make them bigger and deeper."
"We are doing that as subtly as possible so that the person does not realize it," the Unspeakable said, "but don't you think it might be appropriate to cast additional wards to perhaps box him in?"
Edward Foxe stared at the Unspeakable with an expression of shock on his normally sedate face. "Your suggestion is excellent. I should have thought of it before. We will cast an entire grid of wards on the area, working inward. No matter where he is, You-Know-Who will be trapped in a small area, unable to move. And, if he breaks any of them, we'll know where he is. We'll of course key the Minister into the wards. Amelia! Find me some people who can cast the requisite spells."
Amelia did not appreciate taking orders from someone who technically ranked lower than her, but she could see the good sense and rushed to find Frank Longbottom to see who could be spared.
After about half an hour, Harry was convinced that the Death Eaters had completely evacuated the caverns. Focusing carefully, Harry extinguished his final Fiendfyre creature and let out a sigh of relief. The spells had drained his magic. Casting a couple of small stealth spells, Harry moved to another passageway and settled down to rest for a moment.
From the bag Bellatrix had brought to him, Harry withdrew a number of potion vials and drank the contents. After returning the empty vials to the bag, Harry leaned his head back against the stone wall and waited for the effects of the potions to manifest themselves.
After about five minutes, Harry was planning to stand up when a magically amplified voice echoed through the cave. "Minister Black! Edward Foxe needs to speak with you. He's at the entrance of the cave."
Harry frowned suspiciously, wondering if it was a ploy to get him to reveal himself. He dismissed the thought quickly, though. Even if it was a trap, he had the image projection spell. Quickly, he cast the spell and sent his image to the front of the cave. There, he discovered Edward Foxe.
"What is it?" Harry asked.
"I believe that we have pinpointed You-Know-Who's location," Foxe said quickly. "I had more wards cast to block him in. You should be able to pass through all the wards and do what you need to do."
"Well done," Harry said, smiling at the news and at the sensation of the potions taking effect. "The caves seem to be empty. Tell Frank that he can begin moving his Aurors in."
Lord Voldemort cursed as he gave up on his attempt to move through the wards. They simply were too powerful, and it seemed that his tampering had only given them more energy with which to resist him. There was another passage. It was not as deep in the ground, but it was off from the main passages. The Aurors might not have warded that far out. Voldemort whirled around and began stalking back up the passage. Abruptly, he was repelled. Somebody had placed a new ward.
Instantly, Voldemort realized that the Ministry had been slowly strengthening the wards as he fought against them. The thought that he should have realized this and fled before the Ministry could erect the new wards floated to the surface of his mind. Voldemort quashed it. He was going to have to find a way around.
He whirled yet again and unleashed an explosion charm at the side of the passageway. Perhaps he could tunnel around. The Dark Lord continued to blast holes in the side of the wall, trying to protect himself from the shards of flying stone and also taking steps to prevent the passageway from caving in.
A long while had passed, and Voldemort had made substantial progress when he felt the back of his neck prickle. He realized that somebody was watching him.
Wand pointing straight in front of him, he looked down the passage beyond the wards that had trapped him. He could see nobody. Keeping silent, Voldemort strained his eyes, attempting to see past any disillusionment or stealth charms, but to no avail.
"Come out and face me, Lord Black!" Voldemort demanded.
There was no answer.
After a while, Voldemort determined that it had been a false alarm. But, instead of continuing on his tunneling project, he began casting wards to protect himself.
Harry watched as Voldemort began using his wand to carve Dark runes into the floor of the cave. You're losing your touch, Tom, Harry mused. You should have been doing that sooner. Either that or you should have lured me in and allowed me to kill you so that your disembodied spirit could flee.
Holding in a sigh, Harry strengthened his stealth charms and crept away from where the wards had trapped Voldemort.
After a few minutes, he arrived in the cavern where Frank Longbottom had set up his mobile headquarters. Amelia and Edward were watching as Frank directed the Aurors and other Ministry volunteers.
"Well?" Amelia asked.
"He's down there," Harry said. "He's getting ready to make it unpleasant for anybody who tries to pull him out."
"Shouldn't you get moving, then?" Frank said.
"The snake isn't with him," Harry said. "It needs to be found and killed. Amelia, see if you can get any of the prisoners to confirm that the snake was around before our attack began. Edward, start thinking of ways to find it."
"Finding a reptile in an isolated area like this will be relatively simple," Edward said. "I might even find it before Amelia confirms that it was here."
"Good," Harry commented. "Now, tell me, if I'm keyed into the wards, can I throw an object through them?"
This led to some discussion, and Edward ultimately had to summon some of the ward casters. Eventually, they were able to cast a number of spells on Harry that would ensure that he and anything he had recently touched could pass through wards they had cast to trap Voldemort. While the ward casters cast spells on Harry, he inquired whether Foxe could cast Fiendfyre.
"I can," Foxe admitted, "but am not well practiced."
"I can help," Amelia volunteered.
"Find the snake," Harry directed. "Once you have it cornered, use some sort of sound charm to signal to me that you're about to kill it. Make it loud enough that it will confuse and surprise Voldemort. Summon the Fiendfyre and kill it five seconds after the noise."
"We will do that," Edward said.
Voldemort was quite pleased with himself. He had etched a complete circle of runes around himself and had used emergency vials of blood to power the circle. Anybody who tried to cross would fail. There were also some other surprises in store for that person. Now, he could begin work on the tunneling again.
"You're very creative," echoed a voice.
Slightly startled, Voldemort turned around and found Harry standing on the other side of the wards that prevented Voldemort from returning to the main parts of the caverns.
"Do you really think you can kill me?" Voldemort hissed, gesturing angrily and carefully taking note of where his runes were so that he would not inadvertently step over them and lose their protection.
"Certainly," Harry said. "And I will, eventually."
"I'm more powerful than you, you know," Voldemort said.
"No, you're not."
"Then try to kill me," Voldemort said defiantly, spreading his arms wide and leaving himself open.
"I think I'll get more satisfaction from watching you stand trial for murder, torture, and destruction of property, among other things," Harry said. "After that, I think I could convince the Wizengamot to have you put to death. Perhaps we could even find a Muggle method and tailor it to you."
"You'll never kill me. I am too powerful. I am immortal. Even if you manage to kill me, you will always have to wonder if I will find a way to come back. I have made many preparations through the years"
"I wish I could let you live long enough to learn how absurd your outlook on life is," Harry said. "Unfortunately, it would be too risky. Once you outlive your usefulness, you will die."
"Then come and get me!" Voldemort screamed.
Harry grinned, produced his wand, and summoned Fiendfyre. Because it was Harry's magic, it moved effortlessly through the wards and filled the room. After a few seconds, Harry cancelled it, and the flames subsided to reveal Voldemort standing in the passageway, unharmed.
"Nice try," Voldemort observed sarcastically as he released the spell that had protected him.
"Perhaps you misunderstand my intent," Harry said. He gestured to the floor. "All your pretty runes just died."
"Coward," Voldemort snarled. "Come and fight me like a real wizard."
Harry opened his mouth to answer, but a clanging sound of a loud bell echoed through the chamber. Reflexively, Voldemort put his hands to his ears and watched as Harry withdrew a Rubik's cube from his robes. A tap of Harry's wand transformed the cube into an opaque glass cube. Voldemort was about to ask what it was when he suddenly felt a shockwave ripple through his being.
Harry had apparently expected this, for just as Voldemort's began to spasm, Harry hurled the glass cube at Voldemort. It made contact. Through his disorientation, Voldemort thought he heard Harry utter a word. Instantaneously, the cube was pushing him away. It was a portkey of some sort. With a thump, Voldemort landed on a hard floor.
Before he could react, Voldemort felt himself become paralyzed. He fell to the ground, and looked up. Standing above him were three people—Albus Dumbledore, Bellatrix Black, and Hermione Granger.
"Hello, Tom," Dumbledore said as Bellatrix cast a stunner.
Everything went black.
Dumbledore arrived in the Ministry Atrium via the Floo in the late afternoon. Nearly three days had passed since Harry had captured Lord Voldemort and ended the war that had raged for so many years. Celebrations had erupted all throughout Britain. The Muggles had noticed, of course. In a few weeks, the Muggles would likely look back and realize that the celebrations had marked the end of random acts of mysterious violence that hard plagued the country for so long.
But for now, the Muggles would have to remain confused and free of memory charms because Harry had ordered all Ministry personnel to help sort out the aftermath rather than attend to their normal jobs. Eventually, the Ministry would begin to function like a normal, peacetime Ministry should. Dumbledore wondered if anybody remembered what that was like.
Although it was past work hours, there were several dozen wizards and witches gathered in the Atrium. In the days since Voldemort's defeat, the Atrium had become a sort of gathering place for the older witches and wizards who were not quite up to participating in some of the more raucous gatherings in Diagon Alley.
Dumbledore took time to greet some of his friends briefly, but steadily made his way to the lifts and to the floor that housed the Minister of Magic's office suite. Behind an unguarded door, the Headmaster found Harry standing in his office near the windows that looked down into the Atrium.
"Hello, Albus," Harry said without turning around.
"You are quite perceptive," Dumbledore said.
"I saw you coming when you were down there," Harry said.
"I suppose you would have," Dumbledore admitted as he glanced around the office. It seemed that somebody had found time to redo the decorating scheme. In the past, Minister Prewitt had decorated his office with dozens of portraits, but Harry had only two portraits on the wall—one of Prewitt and one of Cygnus Black. The portraits seemed to be the only artistic touches. The furnishings were equally simple. Other than a long table functioning as a desk and a high-backed chair that looked like it belonged to a dining set, there were no furnishings.
"I hope you plan to get some more furniture," Dumbledore said as he conjured himself a comfortable, purple armchair.
"Oh, I suppose I will eventually," Harry said, sounding a little moody. He left the window and took his seat behind the table. "What can I do for you?"
"I've come with news that you and your wife have both been selected to receive the Order of Merlin, First Class," Dumbledore said.
"Won't it look like I'm awarding it to myself?" Harry said.
Dumbledore shook his head. "For several years, the selection process has not involved the Minister. Everybody knows that. Besides, nobody would begrudge you it."
"You deserve it, Harry," Dumbledore said. "You've managed to change the course of history, quite literally by saving lives and restoring peace. Equally amazing is that you have become Minister of Magic at a younger age than any past Minister."
"Quite frankly, I would rather not be Minister," Harry sighed.
"You won't be Minister forever, Harry," Dumbledore said.
"Good," Harry said, seeming to take cheer from Dumbledore's prediction. "Now, what is it that you've come here for?"
"I wanted to ask if you've had time to consider my proposal regarding Voldemort."
Harry shook his head. "I haven't had a chance. And, to be perfectly frank, the answer will likely be no."
Dumbledore shrugged. "Very well. I had one other suggestion."
Harry gestured his willingness to hear Dumbledore's suggestion.
"The war saw a lot of the Dark Arts surface—particularly the horcruxes. And of course, you and your wife's time travel. I think you will need to ensure that the Department of Mysteries works to ensure that these spells and magical discoveries are well controlled."
"Good point," Harry said, opening a desk drawer and retrieving a piece of parchment. He produced a self-inking quill and began writing.
"Might I also suggest that you appoint Hermione Granger and your wife to be Unspeakables? They are intelligent and trustworthy, and thus qualified to help handle many of these concerns. I would of course warn you that I hope to recruit Miss Granger to teach at Hogwarts, but you could make use of her talents until that time."
Harry's quill stopped moving, and he looked up at Dumbledore, his green eyes boring into the Headmaster's own blue eyes. "I can see Hermione as an Unspeakable, but putting Bellatrix in is kind of stretching it."
"Please consider it," Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling. "I think it would be an ideal job for her. She would only have to be part-time."
Harry finished writing. "I will think about it, but I make no promises." He returned the parchment and quill to his desk and looked at Dumbledore. "Was there anything else you wanted to bring up?"
"No," Dumbledore said, "but if you're in the mood, perhaps we could nip out for a bite to eat somewhere."
"I'm afraid I already have dinner plans," Harry said. "I would enjoy it another time, though."
"Good enough," Dumbledore said with a smile as he stood up. "I will look forward to that time."
Draco slammed the door of his truck shut and made his way into the house his aunt had asked him to renovate. He scowled at the drywall dust on the bare floor and made his way toward the areas that served as the kitchen to find something to eat.
"This would be a nice place to live if you had started working on it when your aunt told you to," came Sidra's voice.
Draco looked over his shoulder and saw Sidra standing in the portion of the house that would someday become the living room. He shook his head and made his way to the fridge, where he found a bottle of juice. "Why did she kick me out of Privet Drive?"
"She found better use for it," Sidra said.
"Did you actually have a reason for visiting me? Or are you just trying to be annoying?" Draco asked before taking a swig of his juice.
"Your aunt wants me to tell you that she has removed the spells that were keeping you in the area. But, she thinks that given the announced future nuptials or your mother and Snape and given the relatively bad financial state of your mother, you should probably consider staying here and being productive," Sidra said.
Draco grimaced. "What makes my aunt think that my mother is so poor?"
"If there is any Malfoy money, the Ministry will likely take it to help recompense the victims of the war," Sidra said. "Your mother won't go to Azkaban, but she won't get off without penalties."
"I can't stay here and mow lawns forever," Draco whined.
Sidra grinned wickedly. "Then you'll appreciate my second bit of news. Your aunt has started a Muggle company and named it Black Corp. The president is a nice witch named Sabine. Your aunt is giving you the opportunity to be Sabine's personal secretary."
"I refuse to be a secretary," Draco said, returning the juice bottle to the fridge.
"You'll be a secretary, and you'll like it," Sidra said in an intense voice. "Besides, if you get involved with Black Corp, it can take over your lawn mowing business and get this house renovated."
"Well, maybe it wouldn't be so bad, then," Draco mused.
At Bellatrix's invitation, the Potters, Sirius, and Leo joined Harry and Bellatrix for dinner in Harry and Bellatrix's Manchester flat. They were all sitting around the dining room table as Kreacher served the dinner.
"Please tell me that Kreacher did not cook this meal," Sirius said as he glared at the house elf.
"We do not allow Kreacher to cook," Bellatrix said matter-of-factly as she sipped from a wine glass. "I cooked this dinner myself."
"Cooked? Really?" James said doubtfully as he eyed the main dish.
Lily swatted James and gave him a warning look.
Despite the warning, James pressed on. "It looks like you microwaved some Muggle frozen meals and dumped them on the plate."
"I will take your opinion that my cooking looks like that of professional food preparers as a compliment," Bellatrix said coolly.
"You can still see the lines where the food compartments were divided," James continued morosely. "And the chicken is upside down. All the herbs and spices are on the bottom."
John, the youngest Potter child, snickered.
Harry chose to intercede. "I can assure each of you that this is Bellatrix's cooking at its best."
"If you say so," James grumbled.
"Why don't we discuss something less controversial," Lily suggested.
"Yes, why don't you tell us about how you're actually a Potter," Rose said to Harry.
Harry shrugged and, after swallowing a bit of chicken, spoke up. "It sounds like you've already figured out the gist of it. My name is Harry James Potter."
"Congratulations," Bellatrix said, "you now know his deepest and darkest secret."
Lily was not satisfied with this. "Surely there is more to it. What were we like in the alternate future?"
"I was an only child. You and father both died while I was still a baby. The Dursleys half-heartedly raised me. I escaped to Hogwarts, and ever since my first year, have been dodging Voldemort and foiling his plans until three days ago. At some point in all that, Sirius became my beloved godfather until he died and made me a Black in his will. As far as I'm concerned, I met you, my parents, for the first time when I taught you Potions at Hogwarts," Harry said.
Bellatrix rolled her eyes. "I think you can spare them more than that, Harry. And for the benefit of the younger part of our audience, I would like you to tell the story of your mother competing with her daughter-in-law for your affections back in the day."
Lily glared at Bellatrix as John made disgusted noises, Rose giggled, and Sidra sighed. James was still making faces at the dinner plate.
"Let's talk about politics!" Sirius said.
"By all means," Harry said, welcoming the topic change.
"So, what are your plans?" Sirius asked.
"I don't know," said Harry. "What particular Ministry post are you angling for?"
"I've always wanted to go to America. I hear that there is an empty ambassador post, there." Sirius said.
Harry shrugged. "I'll talk to Andrew Foxe and think about it."
"What!" Leo exclaimed. "I don't want to go to America."
"You can stay with Harry and me," Bellatrix said. "I'm going to buy a townhouse in London, and we will live there until Ravenbourgh is rebuilt. Rose can even move in if she wants."
"No, she won't!" Lily exclaimed.
Sidra rolled her eyes. "It's inevitable, mother. Rose has planned to marry Leo for years."
"Let's stay focused on politics," Harry pleaded. "If any of you want Ministry jobs, write me a note telling me what job you want. Also, tell me if you know anybody who would be good for a position. If your qualifications are good enough, you'll have yourself a paying job."
"How soon are you going to be making your decisions?" James asked, finally pulling his attention away from Bellatrix's sub-par "cooking."
"I'm going out of town for a few days," Harry said. "When I get back, I'll start moving things forward."
"Where are you going?" Lily asked.
"To an undisclosed honeymoon location," Harry said, smiling in Bellatrix's direction.
Bellatrix was also smiling.
"I don't want to know about it," John said. He gestured to his empty plate with a fork. "Is there any second helpings?"
"Check the freezer," Bellatrix said offhandedly.
"I knew it!" James exclaimed.
As soon as the last guest had departed from their flat, Harry and Bellatrix gathered up their luggage and prepared to depart for their honeymoon. Instead of directly departing to their honeymoon destination via portkey, they first apparated to the ruins of Ravenbourgh—or rather, what was left of them. Bellatrix had already set construction workers to clearing away the rubble from the crumbling manor.
"The construction manager said that they will be able to use the old foundation," Bellatrix said to Harry. "It was in good enough condition that they need only do a few minor repairs. I have told the architect to base his plans off it. The interior floor plans and materials will be different from the original manor, though."
"You should have them incorporate electricity and other Muggle things we might like," Harry suggested.
"Yes, I had already thought of that," Bellatrix said.
Harry nodded, and the couple stood, surveying the once and future manor and its neighboring cemetery. "It'll be a lot of work."
"Yes, but I think I will relish the challenge and opportunity," Bellatrix said as she produced one of Harry's Rubik's cubes.
"Let's get going, then," Harry said.
Approximately fifteen years after Harry and Bellatrix's honeymoon . . .
Bellatrix Black Inaugurated as Minister of Magic
Astoria Greengrass, Special Correspondent
In a ceremony anticipated by many throughout these past years, Bellatrix Black, the Chief Unspeakable of the Department of Mysteries, was elevated to the Ministry's top office yesterday morning. She succeeds Amelia Bones, who last week announced her intent to retire and accept a teaching post at Hogwarts.
Minister Black is the third Black to hold the post in recent history. Older readers will recall Cygnus Black's tragically short tenure in the 1970s, and all readers surely will recall with fondness the two-year tenure of Minister Black's husband, Harry Ashworth Black, who retired from the Ministry prior to embarking on a brief, but highly successful, Quidditch career with the Chudley Cannons.
Harry Black and his daughters, the infamous Black Triplets, were present at the ceremony but unavailable for comment. Leo Black, speaking for Black family, declared that the Blacks are pleased to once again be able to contribute to the public good.
Minister Black III has yet to set a clearly definable public agenda, unlike Black I who sought to stop Lord Voldemort and Black II whom the Wizengamot elected with a mandate to end the war and rebuild magical society. Black III's silence has not prevented political commentators from speculating, however.
"The economy," said Andrew Foxe, a retired politician. "Bellatrix's natural talents and inclinations tend toward increasing wealth and financial stability."
Foxe's comments are likely accurate. The Black family's financial holdings have increased dramatically in past years as Minister Black, acting through various financial managers, built and expanded powerful corporations in both the magical and Muggle communities.
Minister Black III is not without critics. "We're looking at a Minister who will be incredibly corrupt," Amos Diggory commented. "Ostensibly, she has entrusted the welfare of the Black financial empire to Leo Black and Draco Malfoy, but she will be conscious of their actions and likely will not be able to resist using her power to interfere."
Others have expressed concerns that Black III's pureblood background will result in her walking back many of the reforms enacted during the tenures of Black II and Bones. But, Arthur Weasley, Head of the Muggle Commission, was positive. "She doesn't have an agenda to take us backwards. She has always zealously enforced and upheld the law. I've already spoken with her and am excited about many new developments that you will soon hear about."
See page 5 for a history of Ministers Black I and Black II.
See page 8 for opinion pieces.