Disclaimer: It's JKR's world not mine and I am glad for that because I can play with it all and not risk angering millions of fans.
A/N: Sorry for the long wait but I am on vacation now and I wanted to finish one of my two WIP. Sit back and enjoy the ride.
Draco Malfoy was pacing furiously in his own little private corner of Malfoy Manor as he attempted to figure out when it all went wrong. His impeccable appearance had been ruined by Potter during his and Snape's escape from Hogwarts a few months earlier. His family's impeccable reputation was in tatters now that the family had been so publicly aligned to the dark lord. Finally, his dream of standing by his father's side and basking in the power the dark lord shared freely was a joke. The only thing the dark lord shared was pain, and he shared that freely.
Of course, it all came back to bloody Harry Potter, but he was honest enough with himself, now in these dark days, to admit that Potter was the best wizard of his generation and not Draco Malfoy. Of course, it also seemed with recent revelations that Potter was no longer the idiotic Gryffindor he once was.
As he glared at his reflection in the mirror, the lurid scar on his face, which had refused all attempts at healing, he could freely say he admired Potter's methods. Although conversely he would also blame Potter for most of his lives ails. In the end he would bide his time, while the dark lord had won a victory the winds did seem to be changing and the invincibility he once cloaked himself in had been removed. War had truly marked all of them, but even if he was on the losing side at one point, it didn't mean he had to end the war there.
Harry looked around the small clearing; it was a dream of sorts he had to admit, even with his memory of a different meeting in his mind. Standing near ghostly versions of his mother, father, Sirius, and even Albus Dumbledore required all his composure.
His mother spoke first, "Harry, why have you called us here?"
Harry, more calmly than he felt, replied, "I need to know if what I've done, and what I've planned to do isn't completely stupid."
His father glanced at the others and suggested, "Well, a little more pranking would be nice." Smirking at Dumbledore he added, "But in terms of how you've stopped viewing murdering psychopaths as wayward children, you're doing well son."
Harry exhaled before he asked Sirius, "What do you think?"
Sirius shrugged, "Hermione is a nice girl and you both seem happy, but I personally would've played the field more."
Lily swatted Sirius in the head, "Don't listen to him, after all there is a reason he didn't have someone special before Azkaban after all."
Sirius rubbed his head and made an over exaggerated swooning motion, "Just because James married my soul mate Lils, I swear to you."
Lily raised her hands in disgust as Dumbledore spoke first, "Harry, I must ask that you look carefully at the younger individuals who are marked before passing judgment."
The others made sounds of protest before Harry simply answered, "I'll give them the same consideration they give me."
Dumbledore frowned but couldn't really argue any other angles; it was his greatest failing trying to redeem those poor young souls, ever since he had failed to save Gellert.
Harry sighed, "I am going to challenge Riddle to a duel and use his ritual against him. I read the literature and it has been done before, when giving bodies to disembodied spirits was more common."
Dumbledore rubbed his beard thoughtfully, "I had a similar thought the night of his resurrection, but dismissed it because it requires the casting wizard have more power than the other."
Harry disagreed, "Not more power but a better claim to the substance. But the Elder wand makes it all a moot point, and can override both requirements of the ritual because it is the deathstick."
James spoke after a long silence, "Be careful son. Riddle is dangerous because he feels no remorse for his actions. He will do whatever he can to win, including hostage everyone you love just to give himself a slight advantage."
Harry nodded, "I know, which is why the duel idea should work. Every time we met before he was always the most powerful and skilled by a large margin. I just always seemed to have luck or something else on my side. He'll never expect me to be prepared for him in a neutral site."
Lily softly spoke, "Don't be overconfident in your plan, and have a back-up in place in case it doesn't work. If I hadn't had a back-up you would have died that night we did."
This sobered Harry, but he did have an answer, "If I do die I've laid down wards in the dueling ring which will prove quite lethal for Riddle, and with no Horcruxes left it will be his end. But, I won't go down without a fight and the elder wand should help in that case."
Dumbledore nodded wearily, "I think that perhaps you have proven to be far wiser than I. There was a time I considered that same avenue, but the prophecy tied my hands, or so I believed."
Harry shrugged, "Prophecies have a way of becoming self-fulfilling if you want them to. I'm dealing with Riddle because no on else is wiling to, and frankly I know I can defeat him."
Lily reached towards Harry and had she not been a summoned spirit no doubt would have been a gentle caress, "You'll win sweetheart, and then I'll be expecting some grandbabies to look down on from time to time."
Harry shivered with emotion before he stepped back and smiled at all of them, "I want to thank all of you. Without your love and support I wouldn't have the chance I do today. I love you."
Harry then willed the spirits back to where they belonged as they all smiled back and waved their goodbyes, this would be the last time that he would ever use the resurrection stone.
Hermione Granger was a surprisingly happy young woman all things considered. If she had to break down the parts of her life that were going well she would have a longer list then she could ever remember. Of course, when the primary deposit on the negative side of life was a homicidally insane but genius wizard was trying to kill her beau, it did put a damper on things.
Her life with Harry was turning into everything she had ever envisioned when she first began having such thoughts in the summer after her second year at Hogwarts. She had created lists, lists that mortified her then, but would be even more so mortifying now, weighing the pros and cons of life with various boys she knew.
Of course Harry and Ron were the two boys she had the most practical designs on, but she had even devised a list in case the loathsome Draco Malfoy developed into a better human being, unlikely as it seemed at the time.
At any rate, life with Harry was as good as she had hoped it could be, they actually talked and while they didn't always agree, they didn't have terrible arguments when this happened. Harry wasn't as volatile as Ron in that regard but it was especially true since his experience with the mirror in the Department of Mysteries.
The physical parts of their relationship she savored with propriety she had never felt before. Of course that was likely part of becoming a woman, and being with a man she deeply loved and in general had great affection for. While they hadn't made love yet, they had explored pretty much everything short of that, and they fit together in a way that mere passion couldn't account for. In her mind, short of death there was nothing that would part them for a good long while yet.
When she had been sorted, it wasn't Ravenclaw that the hat had almost placed her into, but rather Slytherin. For obvious reasons it wouldn't have worked, but the hat had told her that she was the most ambitious muggleborn student it had ever sorted. Hermione Granger was not a pie in the sky academic; she really wanted to change the world for the better. A world she wanted to create where a toddler wouldn't be marked for death simply because of a prophecy. In any civilized world there had to be lines that couldn't be crossed, and the wizarding world was more defined by the lines that could be crossed.
Harry, whatever changes inside of him that had happened because of the mirror could now see the big picture of why such things needed to be done. He had always been reflexively moral before, but Harry now had an idea of world where he didn't think bigger. Harry had always been someone that did things for a good cause, now he did things for a purpose that wasn't always immediate but rather to pay dividends down the road.
When this war was over, and the reins handed over to Amelia Bones and Rufus Scrimgeour she was going to take Harry and in his ambassador at large role he had recently been appointed to they would explore the world like the Victorian explorers of yesteryear. She nearly vibrated in excitement at how it all was coming together. She had faith in Harry that the world was going to be a better place soon, and they would help make it so.
Harry Potter looked at the two buildings knowing full well that the Daily Prophet was magically hidden in plain sight between them. He had changed a lot since catching his glimpse of a possible future, and he could remember running from the wedding at the Burrow and months on end in a tent aimlessly piecing together Dumbledore's obscure ramblings.
Even the muggles walking by could see he was a young man who understood who he was, and what he wanted from life. When someone carries themselves with the sort of confidence that Harry had, people take notice subconsciously. A couple of teenaged school girls walking by certainly took notice of the tall broad shouldered handsome young man, but he paid them no mind. With a determined nod he tapped the elder wand against his thigh and suddenly disappeared from the consciousness of those around him, it was time to start the clock.
With the article the Prophet had come out with a couple weeks earlier, and all of his other plans drawing to fruition, such as with Snape getting Nagini isolated enough to leave Riddle fully mortal. The exiled ministry building up to where they could retake the ministry building proper before the end of summer. It appeared that things were accelerating near the end, but the ball was rolling and all he could do now was play his part.
Finding the daily prophet when it was unplottable was surprisingly easy, one merely needed to have a wand of destiny, and the knowledge that they were setting the stage for the final defeat of Lord Voldemort. After all, most of magic was intent, and Harry had no intention that could be construed as malicious.
As ripples of magic bled into the background Harry walked right through the front door of the now visible, to him at least, Daily Prophet main circulation office. The first person he saw was a startled looking secretarial type who looked like the type who could be charmed by a smile.
Smiling he tried his hand, "Good morning, I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of the head editors office?"
The woman, her mouth agape at the young man who was clearly Harry Potter, pointed to a corridor on the left. Harry nodded politely and set off down the hall, where the main editor's office was near the end, with the door already open.
Harry took a deep breath and stepped through the threshold of the door, the flabby balding man behind the desk looked rather harried, in short, exactly what you would think an editor of a newspaper would look like if you ever took the time to think about it.
"Good morning." Harry said cheerfully.
The man looked up from an article he was reading in surprise, "Hmmm, what can I help you with…as he took in Harry's appearance he finished "Mr. Potter."
Harry reached out with his hand and they shook briefly, "I was wondering how business has been since you've been forced into hiding?"
The man grimaced but stood, his belly jiggling like jello, "Er, right my apologies Mr. Potter. Barnabas Cuffe is the name, and I think you already know the answer to your question."
Harry motioned to the seat in front of the desk and Cuffe nodded before slouching back down into his own seat, "I have a proposal that could be mutually beneficial for both of us."
Cuffe grunted and waved his hand as to say 'proceed', "I want you to print a public challenge from me to Tom Riddle, or as you know him Lord Voldemort."
Cuffe was turning paler as Harry outlined his plan to draw Voldemort out and battle him at a neutral site, to determine to future of wizarding Britain. But, Cuffe did have to admit that the plan was going to be very profitable for the paper, and having Voldemort and his followers around and in charge was indeed very bad for business.
As negotiations concluded Cuffe felt he owed to the young man to offer some words, "Mr. Potter, let me be the first to apologize for what our society asks of you now. We witches and wizards in Britain are not the most open minded sort, but we can acknowledge our mistakes and we do prefer to live in peace. After you've succeeded keep this in mind, we would rather change then lose the wonderful young man you've become in spite of the elder statesmen of this place. This country needs to change, and I hope you are at the very least involved in this change."
Harry glanced at the ceiling to gather his thoughts here he nodded and rose from his seat, "Remember to use the exact words I said and he'll have no choice but to respond. His ego is too huge to ignore such a challenge to his power. Thank you for your time."
With that Harry was out the door and had cleared the wards before anyone could think of anything else to say to him. Harry Potter was gone, but their job at the Prophet was far from done.
Amelia Bones had cultivated a certain belief from her allies and rivals alike that she was a witch that was not meant to be trifled with. Of course if she had not cultivated this belief with every fiber of her being she likely would have ended up washing out of the auror program, let alone went on to be a very successful administrator and a leader of a government at the very time it needed strong leaders. As they sat here in Paris ironing out the last details that would lead to the retaking of the seat of their government, she was drawing upon all of her experience to make everything work.
Rufus on the other hand was just being a glory seeking peacock about the entire thing, he wanted to put his imprint on every decision regardless of whether it made any tactical sense. At the moment this meant a clash with the Captain of the black ops squad the ICW was providing in being the spearhead of the entire operation.
"I'm telling you mate, we have to disable the Interfloo connections before we drop into their bullpen area and take down these snatcher squads, and any straggling aurors. Once they fall we can drop their wards and install our own hostile intent wards that should incapacitate the rest." Auror Captain Mick Brumbage stated for what seemed the thousandth time.
Scrimgeour wouldn't let it go though, "I am not your mate, and you will address me as minister if you wish to remain a captain after all of this business is over."
Brumbage wasn't backing down however, "If all of my lads get out of this alive, I'll call you minister mate. But when cleaning up others messes, I find it can only work if the minister of a conquered land doesn't try to pull pissing matches over operational integrity."
Scrimgeour huffed but finally backed down, his stubbornness finally overcome by the sheer fact that his only real power was derived from a young man who would surely hear from certain parties if he was making things too difficult.
Amelia's smirk wasn't making things any easier, "Rufus if I didn't know you better I would think you and that idiot Lockhart have something in common. Photo opportunities can wait until after we've accomplished something. Kingsley will be your eyes and ears because unlike you they respect him for his work at the International years ago."
Kingsley grunted and added, "The important thing is being able to sleep in my own bed, not whether your hair looks good."
Severus Snape understood that in life you rarely got a true second chance, but here he was with Potter's intended in an abandoned farmhouse trying to finally track down and kill the last of the dark lord's anchors. Potter promised him that if he discharged his duties here properly the life debt would be dissolved and he would put in a word to let Snape free at the conclusion of the war with an offer to research potions through and ICW subsidiary.
All he had to do was protect Granger and aid her in disposing of the snake and ensuring the anchor was dissolved and destroyed.
"Granger, if you are quite done getting any possible house elves cleared out can we please destroy the snake before the dark lord becomes suspicious or even worries about a shard of his very soul." Snape ever the bubbly companion commented snidely.
Hermione rolled her eyes, but acquiesced, at this point any collateral damage would be beyond her or anyone else's control. "You go through the door and keep the snake preoccupied I'll complete the cleansing ritual from the upstairs landing."
Snape sighed but did as commanded pushing through the door and banishing a couch and then cabinet at the snake which was in the far corner. All his attack needed to do was stun the snake so Granger could finish her ritual.
Granger was chanting in some unknown language as her eyes were backlit like some ethereal being which normally didn't exist on this plane of existence. There was a rush of air, and the feel as though something alien was in the room before a great lightness settled upon them and as the light vanished and his eyes could focus again he glanced over at the snake, which was convulsing as if in its death throes, and then up at Granger who had a look of grim satisfaction on her face.
If nothing else, the Potter man did have a knack for both finding, but also endearing themselves to some truly extraordinary witches. Even Snape with all of his bitterness and pessimism had to admit that Granger was easily the most talented with of the last 20 years if not as well rounded as Lily was.
Granger shot him a look before she somersaulted off of the banister on the landing transforming into what appeared to be a lynx as she landed softly before rolling back into her human form seamlessly in a move Minerva would have been envious of. She swished her wand at the snake before transfiguring the now corpse into a bone and nodding to herself satisfied.
"Well, it's up to Harry now." Sighing she looked at Snape, "Thank you for your help…Severus."
Snape arched his eyebrow but acknowledged her thanks; a half remembered memory from his occlumency lessons with Potter surfaced a gangly red head muttering 'Scary. Scary, but brilliant.' Snape smirked to himself before the two nodded at each other and vanished with twin swirls and pops.
Harry glanced at the present ICW officials. It had been 200 years since the last formal magical duel to the death for capital offenses. Duels fell out of favour due to the more favoured blood feuds which while more destructive were less about honour and more about conquest. This however was Trial by combat as sanctioned by the ICW, as an Ambassador at large this was his right as per his position.
Voldemort sought legitimacy; well this would give him that, defeating an Ambassador in such a venue would transfer the position onto him. Also, the shame of refusing such a petition could lead to some unsavory results same as when one breaks a magical contract. Magic had found the request acceptable so Voldemort must as well.
Harry had no intention of settling into a duel where Voldemort could demonstrate his superior knowledge of spells. Rather Harry would reclaim what was rightfully his and then dispel any notion of perceived invincibility, which was the true power of the elder wand. True in the past it had been used to spread terror and intolerance, but now it was to prevent future generations from perpetuating that cycle.
Harry looked every bit the young warrior now known internationally as the Emerald Warlock, heralding a time when wizards were assigned a color to demonstrate their meddle. Voldemort on the other hand looked gruesome, and menacing traits that he had used since his rebirth to drive his opponents to even more terror. Now however, as the two wizards prepared for their duel in their warded areas, there was no danger to those present, nor the nearly 1,000 spectators at the stadium.
One thing Voldemort was not aware of, Harry Potter in his time of research had found a nice little personal ward at the Canadian National Library for the Magical. An American wizard had during revolutionary times declared a similar duel and had created a ward that in the case of his demise would eliminate his opponent as well. It was an insurance policy that Harry prayed he would not need.
Of course, it didn't hurt that his wand had a higher degree of sentience than any other wand, and often would provide the spell if Harry provided the magic. As the dueling official made the signal for the two wizards to take their positions Harry took a deep breath and exhaled, it was time to face his destiny.
Voldemort started the duel by snarling "Avada Kedavra", in a hope to end this duel as quickly as possible.
Harry disinterestedly side stepped the curse before in a loud and clear voice he intoned "je revendique."
Voldemort actually blinked before summoning a chunk of turf and transfiguring it into a pile of knives, banishing them in an attempt to injure or maim.
Harry twirled the elder wand as though to create a funnel and transfigured the knives into one large shield that he summoned into the ground to his left. If nothing else it would intercept another killing curse. Next he intoned, "par des droits."
Before Voldemort could utter a retort Harry pointed his wand to the heavens and finished, "Mon Sang."
Voldemort spasmed comically before one of his arms burst open and his blood rushed out and pooled before Harry's down turned wand sent it onto the ground where it was vanished leaving no drop behind. Voldemort was clearly dying and Harry decided to end this quickly.
With a slash of his wand Voldemort was parted from his head. Hopping down from his slightly raised platform he walked to the remains of the one who was once the dark lord Voldemort he carved three specific runes into the ground and intoned loud enough for all to hear "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust." As per the ritual custom before gently touching his and to the first run causing the runes to unload their charge burning Voldemort's remains to dust before they vanished never to be seen again.
As the wards went down once a winner had been decided Harry cast Sonorus on himself, "Witches and wizards, today was a day that should have never come to pass. A wizard with the talent and drive of Tom Marvolo Riddle should not have become the monstrosity that you saw today. But, as a child he was neglected and forgotten by a system that still remains in place today. Gone are the days where a witch or wizard can ignore the suffering of others be they house elves, other witches and wizards, or even muggles."
A few gasps from the crowd could be heard. But Harry ignored them and continued on.
"Gone are the days where I will live in a world filled with those too afraid to defend themselves from bullies and thugs. I have taken care of the dark lord that was so very feared, and I will do my share going forward. But I will not do these things so that others do not have to. I will do this while others do what they need to do as well. It is time all members of the magical community take responsibility and say enough pointless death and destruction. I am more interested at building then destroying as should you be."
Harry canceled the spell and continued quieter, but everyone still heard his words, "Let us build a world that our grandchildren can be proud of in a way that I have never seen before. I implore you, let go of your greed, jealousy, petty grievances, or the world of magic shall surely die." Harry exhaled after his long diatribe and turned his cloak and vanished with nary a pop.
Meanwhile at the Ministry of Magic the forces representing the exiled ministry recaptured the building with only one casualty, the Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour had been killed when he let his guard down by some captured but not yet restrained death aurors. It had been a great success and as patronus after patronus rolled in signifying Harry had indeed defeated Voldemort. It became clear that their world was changing, but they still had work to do in order to rebuild their society.
Amelia Bones stood before her fellow liberators and said, "Now comes the time for us to end this madness once and for all. We shall not rest until all of the collaborators and participants in this madness are tried and dealt with by our laws. We can not heal until this poison is removed. Harry Potter has given us this opportunity; let it not go to waste."
Harry woke with a start blinking his eyes owlishly as the sun overhead forced his eyes to focus, Hermione was next to him reading a book while wearing a bikini and sarong. "Sleep well?"
Harry smiled as he glanced at the engagement ring on her finger and thinking about their nuptials that were only a few weeks away, "Never better." Leaning over to pull his love into a passionate embrace, all was well.
16 years later
16 years went by in a blink as Harry and Hermione traveled the globe learning everything they had wanted to know and some things they didn't as Ambassador at large and his formidable wife. But after 5 years of traveling they returned to Britain to settle in for Hermione's pregnancy for their second child. James was born in one of their various travels, coincidentally when they were in India.
After zigzagging the globe for three more years Hermione finally informed Harry it was time to go home and get their family settled down. Charles was born 4 months later at St. Mungo's Hospital with their last child Lily Jane coming another four years later.
Living in Wales in the skeleton of the rebuilt Potter's Keep, they still summered abroad, often at their Villa on the Mediterranean. Hermione had finished her law degree soon after returning home and Harry formed PSC or the Potter Security Corp where both he and Hermione ran the two primary branches of the business. Hermione specialized in legal matters, while Harry specialized in wards, training of body guards, and also self-defense instruction for various auror companies throughout the world. Gone were the days when the ministry had a monopoly on the protection of citizens.
The Weasley family grew apart from the Potters somewhat but they all still met for both Christmas and summer celebrations a few times a year to catch up. Other notable school mates including Neville Longbottom and Luna Longbottom were the leading potion ingredients suppliers in the British Isles, both revolutionizing techniques in magical plant and animal conservation techniques. The latter pair had more regular meetings and standing dinner reservations at Seamus and Lavender Finnegan's restaurant in muggle Dublin that catered primarily to witches and wizards.
Life in the wizarding world had improved greatly, and while not completely equitable the discrimination of the past had all but disappeared as other races like goblins and house elves were gaining a more equal footing due to the works of one Hermione Potter.
In the end it took a lot of hard work, luck, and perseverance but looking into the future it was fair to say that thanks to Harry Potter taking a wrong turn in the Department of Mysteries, for once the world was a much better place.
A/N: Good grief, sorry this took so long to put the finishing touches on but life throws us obstacles that we can rarely ever anticipate. I hope you all enjoyed the conclusion to this little tale and I hope to get some other works done here in the not too distant future if all goes well. For now enjoy this and if you get the time please leave me a review.