Well, another chapter done, and I hope you'll like it. I know I promised that a new chapter of Epic would come out soon as well, but I'm afraid I'm a bit blocked on that one. Updates to all my stories will unfortunately remain irregular. As some of you know, I may post a chapter a day, or drag one out for a month. Hopefully, my muse will find me again and updates will become more frequent.
The next two days remained tense as Harry moved often between HQ and Hogwarts, with the Grangers glaring at him every time they passed. Hermione's state took a momentary backseat when the Aurors in the Order gave their report to the rest of the Order about the events in the Department of Mysteries.
"It was a bloodbath, pure and simple. I doubt the bastards even stood a chance. Some were simply stabbed, others had their heads blown apart, and two were even hacked to pieces. There were two kills that were very different, though." Moody paused, his body shuddering at the memory.
"Crabbe was found impaled to the wall by his own torn off arm. The wound was cauterized, and the stab missed any vital organs, so he was still alive when they found him. The medics managed to save his life, but the experience drove him insane. Rabastan was found hanging by his legs with his skin completely removed. The forensics team determined that he was alive almost until the very end."
"I was in a hurry." Harry complained, making the people sitting next to him edge away from him.
"What sort of a monster are you?" Mr. Granger shivered.
"The kind…" Harry paused suddenly and turned his head to the side. "Hermione's awake."
With that, he stood up and rushed away before anyone could react.
Hermione was slowly stirring, and by her movements, she had realized that she was restrained.
"You're safe, Hermione." Harry said softly as he removed the restraints and raised her head.
"Wha…" Hermione said weakly, but her words were stopped by the feeding unit pressed to her lips. For the next ten minutes, she drank, replenishing her greatly depleted reserves of blood. Only afterwards did she realize what it was she was drinking, and she jumped away from Harry in shock.
"What did you do to me?" She screamed and rushed out the door.
"Wait." Harry rushed to follow and got out of the room just as Hermione passed a room that let sunlight into the hall.
Her scream of agony as her left sight burst into flame drew everyone into the hall, and the group watched in silent horror as Harry managed to pull her back into the shade.
"Help me." Harry screamed, and it seemed to shake Hermione's parents from their stupor as they rushed towards them.
"Get her into the bathtub and plug the drain." Harry pointed to the nearest bathroom and rushed away to his room. He returned with a dozen feeding units by the time they were finished.
"Is she going to be alright?" Mrs. Granger whispered.
"It will take a few hours, but she will heal." Harry replied as he filled the tub with blood. Hermione surfaced moments after her head was submerged, the left side of her face already cracking as new tissue pushed the burnt flesh away.
"You need to stay under as long as possible. Take a deep breath and go back down." Harry's voice was gentle as he slowly pushed her back down.
"How come you don't burn?" Mr. Granger asked.
"She'll become immune in about a month." Harry replied shortly.
"There's one thing I don't understand. I've read about vampires from Hermione's books, and you're nothing like them." Mrs. Granger turned towards Harry.
"I am not a magical vampire, I am a Lantrisi. They are vampires who exist in a different universe." Harry replied shortly.
"Hashera." Hermione whispered as she emerged for a breath. Already, most of the burnt flesh had fallen off and new flesh had started to grow over the bone.
"Good, you're starting to access the Link." Harry grinned.
"What does that mean? And won't her wounds get infected? This is hardly sanitary." Mr. Granger asked, his worry overcoming his anger.
"Lantrisi immune systems are far more resilient. Foreign organisms cannot survive in our blood. As to what she meant, Hashera is the Lantrisi capital world, and she got that information from the psychic interlink that all Lantrisi use for communication and data storage." Harry replied.
Finally, Hermione recovered enough to be removed from the tub, and her parents went to hug her, but were stopped by Harry.
"Right now, she's ten times stronger then a human with almost no control over that force. She could snap you in half without even meaning to." Hermione sagged at that.
"Don't worry; I have a solution for that." Harry pulled out a metal bracelet from his pocket and put it on her wrist. The bracelet immediately constricted until it was a tight fit on her wrist. Harry pressed a few small buttons on it, and Hermione shivered as he pressed the last one.
"This is a restraining bracelet. It sends a constant signal to your brain, limiting the maximal amount of force your muscles can exert." Harry grinned as she perked up and took her parents in a tight hug.
"We need to talk about all this." Hermione gave Harry a firm look.
Harry nodded and led them to the library, which was empty. The others had decided that the four of them needed to sort things out between them first before talking to the others.
"The first thing I want to know is can this be reversed?" Mr. Granger asked the moment they sat down.
"If we were on Hashera, maybe. Even then, the survival process is one in fifteen." Harry replied in a grim tone.
"Will I need to kill?" Hermione whispered nervously.
"The feeding units I have will provide us with the blood we need. Your other predatory urges can easily be sated by sparring with me." Harry replied, and he noticed she was greatly relieved to hear this.
"Can you tell us more about the Lantrisi?" Mrs. Granger asked.
"Sure. The Lantrisi originated from Lanus Deathhand, who is the first Lantrisi in existence. He was born a human on Earth somewhere around 3000 BC, when he was taken by a ship of the Derashan Empire, who used him as a subject for their super soldier project. They used genetic alterations as well as controlled hyper-evolutions to create the ultimate fighter. Their experiment exceeded all their expectations.
Afraid that they would be unable to contain him since their force field technology was very primitive at the time, they sent him back to Earth. We uncovered this information around nine centuries ago, when we discovered the destroyed remains of the Derashan home world.
His life was long and hard, and at the turn of the 21st century, he was captured and frozen. Several centuries later, he was released, and he restored the Lantrisi Collective as a part of the Galactic Alliance. Disagreements and conflicts with Alliance leadership led to the first war between the two factions and the establishment of the Collective as an independent power in the galaxy.
At the time of my departure, the Collective held eighty two star systems, with a population of over one hundred and sixty billion Lantrisi, and over a hundred billion people living under our control." Harry's information shocked the two humans.
"How advanced are your people?" Mr. Granger asked in awe.
"They are the most advanced race in the known galaxy." Harry grinned and flipped his watch open and pulled his sword out. "Flat space technology. It converts three-dimensional objects into two-dimensional, thus allowing you to store immense volume inside little space. There is also no gravity inside, so weight is not an issue as well. Next, take this sword." Mr. Granger did so, only to drop to the ground from the weight.
"Pure kershin metal. The metal itself is practically indestructible. Tests proved that it can even withstand the intense gravitational forces of a singularity over a period of one standard week of un-dilatated time. It weighs around hundred and fifty pounds, and the edge is sharpened by nano-processing to a monomolecular edge. The weight, sharpness and Lantrisi strength combine into a weapon you do not want to tangle with." Harry grinned as he returned his blade back into his watch.
"I wish I could see it all." Hermione whispered, caught in the sights her mind presented to her. It all seemed so surreal.
"One day, you might. The primary drawback of being Lantrisi is the immortality it brings. That's one of the reasons we don't interact much with other races. It's hard to form ties when you know you'll outlive the people you care about." Harry sighed.
"How old are you?" Hermione asked.
"Almost seven hundred years. Fortunately, we managed to set the temporal coordinates for my return within a rather narrow margin." Harry grinned.
"So, what happens now?" Mr. Granger asked.
"First, we'll tell the others what is going on. Tomorrow, I'll start teaching and training Hermione." Harry's grin didn't left the girl with a good feeling.
The Order was shocked by his information, but the more practical members like Moody and Shacklebolt quickly saw the benefit a trained military officer could bring to their group. While they were trained Aurors, they were still trained as law enforcement. Harry quickly helped them organize their various cells, as well as giving them tips on how to conduct combat operations.
"Again." Harry stood in a ready stance as Hermione slowly dragged herself up and wiped the stream of blood from her mouth. Her wheezing made it clear that at least one of her lungs was punctured.
She rushed him, trying to land a hit on him, only for her attack to be stopped without effort, and her defenses demolished with ease.
"You're progressing well. I am certain you'll master the basics of the Crushing Fist by the end of the summer. Now set your ribs back in place and return to your studies. I expect a ten page report on the first Lantrisi-Alliance war by tomorrow." Hermione growled before leaving the room.
"You think she'll finish it this time?" Sirius asked.
"Not a chance. There is too much relevant information to go through. The point of the task is not to have her do the report, but to get her to work smarter. The Link already has dozens of such reports. All she has to do is alter one of them and she'll pass. Hell, she just has to pick one, copy it and sign her name on the top." Harry grinned.
"What will that teach her, other then that you approve of cheating?" Tonks frowned.
"It will teach her that she is not alone. The Collective takes care of its own in every way. Now, let's continue our lessons." Harry turned to Sirius who was teaching him the Animagus transformation.
The potion that was usually taken to reveal a person's inner animal was useless in Harry's case, as was practically every other potion. All the formulas were made with human or humanoid recipients in mind. There were differences in a potion for a human and one for a goblin, for example. For Harry, who was far different internally then any other race on Earth, there were no potions that would likely work on him, so he had to find his inner beast the hard way, through meditation.
It wasn't the meditation itself that was giving him trouble, but the rather unique way it was done for this purpose. It was simply not something he had done before, and it took him a while to get the hang of it.
"Any luck this time?" Sirius asked after Harry snapped out of his trance.
"Yeah, I found my form, and no, I won't tell you what it is. I want to keep it a surprise until I transform." Harry grinned as Sirius pouted.
"Alright, be that way. The transformation itself is relatively simple. All you need to do is draw upon the image of your inner beast, thinking about everything you know of the creature, and push your magic throughout your body and will yourself to change." Sirius explained.
Harry nodded and closed his eyes as he focused. For several minutes, nothing happened, then his skin and clothes began to darken and his hair to turn white. In moments, his clothes turned into a tattered robe as his body appeared decayed. A sudden chill filled the room as he floated up. A hollow, rasping chuckle echoed from his cowl as he landed again and returned back to normal.
"I somehow thought you'd be a wolf or a bat." Tonks commented.
"The form surprised me as well. It was a really weird feeling, I'll tell you that. I could sense every person in the house, and I could taste your emotions. Still, the shape has its advantages." Harry grinned as picked up a large glass of pumpkin juice. He grimaced when he noticed it was warm, but a moment later, the glass in his hand frosted over. With a smirk, he walked away.
"Tell me he didn't just use a bloody Dementor's aura to chill his drink." Tonks turned to her cousin.
"That boy has a pair made of solid diamond. I'm so proud." Sirius grinned as he wiped a mock tear from his eye.
Outside Hogwarts, things weren't so good, unfortunately. Ever since Voldemort was exposed, he began a reign of terror that was positively staggering. Four Muggle villages were completely decimated, a bridge and tunnel in the London area were destroyed, causing massive casualties, and several prominent witches and wizards were attacked, some by Voldemort himself.
Without Harry's tactical advice, Amelia Bones, Rufus Scrimgeour as well as other high ranking Ministry officials that were unlikely to support Voldemort's efforts would have been killed. Fortunately for them, the Order warned them that they were a very likely target, and together with the Order, they took steps to ensure they had an escape route ready.
Following the wake of attacks, Amelia Bones rose to the position of Minister, and not only did she greatly increase the number of people in law enforcement, but also gave the Order an official Ministry sanction to operate as they saw fit against Voldemort. On top of that, she also purged the Ministry from the most extreme purebloods, recognizing them as a source of information and influence for Voldemort.
Despite Harry's insistence, Dumbledore absolutely forbid the use of lethal force in their conflicts with the Death Eaters, and also refused to allow Harry to participate in their operations. Harry did not take this well, and only the quick intervention of Fawkes, who sensed the peril his bonded was in and quickly flashed in and got him out right before Harry's fist caved in his skull. Instead, Harry opened a new window into the kitchen wall. The fact that the wall was heavily enchanted against damage led to the others to give him a rather wide berth for the next few days.
It was a week before Dumbledore showed his face again, and even then, took great care to stay as far away from Harry as he could.
"Is it complete?" Harry turned to his godfather as he and Remus Lupin walked in. While Harry quickly bonded with Sirius, Remus was a different matter. On one hand, the man wanted to get to know the son of his friends a lot better, but on the other, his werewolf side was completely terrified from Harry, and every time he got close, he had the urge to run away and don't look back.
"All we need to do is input the signature of what we wish to monitor." Sirius replied as he waved his wand and a large map of the world unrolled from the table and stuck itself on one of the walls of the kitchen/meeting room of HQ.
"I have that right here. I just finished the scans on professor Snape's mark." Harry pulled out a stack of parchment filled with long columns of strange text.
"Right here. This is the signature needed." Harry read one of the sheets and pulled his wand out. Together with Sirius, they imprinted the signature of the Dark Mark onto the map, and slowly, black dots started popping up here and there.
"This is going to be harder then I thought." Harry whistled as finally, no more dots appeared. The problem was, the map was showing them hundreds of Death Eaters spread all over the world.